Reviewed by Alison, Grace and Mary
TOBY (Therapy Outcomes by You) Playpad by Autism West is a comprehensive Early Intervention Program designed for parents to implement at home with their children with Autism. It is designed for children up to age six, who are not yet receiving specific interventions for Autism, or are in the early stages of therapy. TOBY has its foundation in the evidence-based interventions for children with Autism and was created by a team of professionals specializing in treatment of children with ASD, including a speech pathologist, a clinical psychologist and an occupational therapist. It combines an extensive Help Guide, Dynamic Syllabus of iPad activities and Natural Environment Training, Daily Plans and Reports all in one app.
TOBY has three types of activities to help a child learn across different settings – Solo, Partner and Natural Environment Tasks (NET). Solo and Partner Tasks involve working on or with the iPad while NET are done off the iPad and built into the child’s daily routine. All these are designed with the ultimate aim of teaching the child how to learn from his world, how to interact with it to get his needs and wants met and to teach him both social and physical reasons why he should interact and learn. TOBY delivers up to a total of 326 lessons targeting 52 key learning areas in Social, Language, Sensory and Cognitive development. It is designed to be used daily for months or even years.
TOBY Solo Tasks
TOBY takes advantage of young children’s natural fascination with technology to deliver short lessons on the iPad that only require the child to tap or drag pictures. The child interacts directly with the iPad and earns stars for correct answers which can be used to exchange for playing one of five in-built Reward games. The iPad provides positive reinforcements when the child answers correctly and prompts when incorrect.
TOBY Partner Tasks
Partner Tasks require the child to copy an action or respond verbally to a model provided by the iPad or parent. Here, the parent has to record the child’s responses on the iPad which in turn will guide the parent on when to prompt and the level of prompting to give if required. The child can continue to collect stars towards playing the Reward games for successfully completing partner tasks.
Natural Environment Tasks (NET)
The goal for NET is to enable the child to transfer learning into the real world. TOBY gives specific instructions to the parent on how to create learning opportunities during the child’s routine activities and play time. Parents choose from a selection of Adaptive and Play activities and record the outcomes in TOBY. These tasks require the most planning and parents are encouraged to read the directions, plan and get everything ready the night before.
The TOBY Program is a complex educational software that does not work like any other app that we have seen. We spent weeks trying to understand how TOBY works in the background and realized we can’t see all the contents unless we have progressed through the Program, ‘mastering’ various prerequisite skills before TOBY releases new lessons. Each day, TOBY suggests a list of activities to do and this changes as the app adapts the Program to the child’s progress. The activities available differ for individual children depending on their abilities and needs, as analyzed by TOBY based on the feedback on the child’s responses. If a skill can’t be mastered even with prompts, TOBY moves backwards into simpler versions of a goal or to its underlying skills. Conversely, if a child can demonstrate that he has mastered the skill targeted by a lesson without prompting, he will not have to work through the whole lesson before moving to more advanced skills. This approach ensures that no essential skills get overlooked and that the child mastered whatever he was presented.
TOBY automatically records the child’s progress for the Solo Tasks and makes it easy for parents to input their feedback for the Partner Tasks and NET. Progress reports are readily available in TOBY, showing what activities the child has done, how much prompting was needed and what areas need further support.
Before embarking on any new program, it is important to know if it will meet your family’s needs. We highly recommend that you complete the suitability questionnaire to see if this app is suitable for your child. The next step is download the free TOBY Playpad lite version and read the TOBY Guide which provide written information and videos on the evidence-based teaching and learning principles used across all TOBY Playpad activities. Be prepared to spend days to read and perhaps to read a few more times in order to fully appreciate the Program and to be able to derive maximum benefits from it.
This is not an iPad app that you just switch on and start using straight away. After spending time to learn about the Program, we recommend that you set up a separate Test or Parent profile to explore the app and then try out the activities before presenting them to your child.
What we like
- The Program allows you to coordinate activities both on and off the iPad for practicing real world skills.
- The ability to set up a daily plan with activities to earn rewards.
- It adapts to your child’s abilities.
- If a child has trouble with a task, assistance comes in the form of specific prompts e.g. hand-over-hand and the concept is re-promoted as necessary later within the app.
- The built-in reward system made the app enjoyable for children and showed them that they were making progress.
- The reporting function in the app was helpful to understand what areas we needed to continue to work on.
- It has three profiles within the app which is useful for families with more than one child needing to use it, and also allows the parent to have a separate profile to use to learn about the app, without affecting their child’s results.
- Good support from the TOBY team through Information Sessions and Trained TOBY consultants (more information will be made available on the website).
- Louder audio for the videos in the app.
- Automatic saving of data until the next upload of progress to the server.
- Ability to air print from within the app especially for the NET so that parents can have a written sheet for times when they don’t want to use the iPad e.g. at mealtime or bath time.
- Option for professionals e.g. therapists and teachers, or parents with more than 3 children needing the app, to purchase additional child profiles
- Option to customize the audio labeling e.g. of objects to cater to the differences in terms used by different countries.
- Option to record and playback the child’s attempts for the expressive language components.
- In the videos of actions such as brushing one’s hair or teeth, it would be good to have the actual activity demonstrated rather than a mime of it. When our children tried to put it into action they often mimed what they saw in the video versus putting the brush in their hair or putting the toothbrush in their mouth.
Many of the activities in TOBY can be found in different smaller apps available in the App Store (which may be more polished in presentation). However, what makes TOBY unique and superior is that these activities are integrated seamlessly and progressively in one program and it adapts to the individual child. TOBY is especially helpful for the new parent whose child was just diagnosed. With goals, rationale and instructions explained in details, parents are able to internalize and apply the knowledge learnt on all the teachable moments they have with their children. TOBY is not intended to replace professional help but to be used as an intervention tool alongside other therapies.
TOBY Playpad is a combination of a reference, manual and record book in an app for parents who wish to accelerate the development of their children with Autism or developmental delays and who needs to learn the early foundation skills for learning. It is also a useful complement to those who needs help to carry over what they are learning in therapy to a real world setting. There is so much more to TOBY than we can cover in this review. We are impressed with the scope and depth of this Program, but caution that it is effective and worth purchasing only if parents are committed to invest the time and effort that the Program requires.
TOBY Playpad Lite
by Autism West
Requirements: Compatible with iPadMini4G, iPad 2 WiFI, iPad 3G, iPadFourthGen4G, iPadThirdGen, iPadMini, iPadFourthGen, iPad WiFi, iPad 2 3G, iPadThirdGen4G
Size: 142.89 MB
by Autism West
Requirements: Compatible with iPad 3G, iPad 2 WiFI, iPad WiFi, iPadMini4G, iPadFourthGen4G, iPadThirdGen, iPadFourthGen, iPadThirdGen4G, iPad 2 3G, iPadMini
Size: 184.05 MB
NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
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