Nicole’s Nook: Reading Made Easier with Tablets

kids-playing-with-ipadReading on an iPad (or tablet), versus traditional paper or books, can be a much simpler and more enjoyable process for many people. Specifically, iPads have numerous features incorporated to assist those who experience visual, auditory and other processing issues while reading.

Some of these assistive features include:

  • VoiceOver: speaks items on screen, gesture-based screen reader which is especially useful in iBooks
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver
    • Tap a button to hear description
    • Double tap to activate
    • Once enabled, triple click home button to access
  • Zoom: allows you to magnify screen
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Zoom
    • Use three fingers to zoom by double tapping
    • Use three fingers to drag to move around screen
  • Invert Colors: creates contrast with black on white
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Invert Colors
  • Grayscale: shifts the entire display into shades of black and white
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Grayscale
  • Speech: can do Speak Selection or Speak Screen
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Speech Selection
      • Choose the Speaking Rate
      • Can highlight words
      • Text to speech feature
      • Allows you to highlight selected text, choose Speak to have it read
    • Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Speak Screen
      • Turn Speak Screen on
      • Now you are able to swipe down with two fingers from top of screen to hear the contents of the screen
      • Can read text, names of buttons and other interface elements

Some other features which can be modified to further assist those with visual challenges include text size, text boldness, button shapes and degree of screen contrast. Additional hearing impaired assistance features include the ability to pair hearing aids with the phone as a Bluetooth device, and adjust the volume balance between left and right channels with the Mono Audio option.

When reading in Safari, click on the left end of the browser to enable a special reader mode that simplifies articles and extracts only the text. This is helpful in removing distracting ads or other information not pertinent to the article. You can then use Speak Screen to have the article read by swiping down with two fingers from the top of screen.

Try out these built-in features on your iPad to assist readers of all ages and abilities and improve their literacy.

Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist


Washington University NF Center Patient Attends Grand Rounds

AllyDavid H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, Director of the Washington University Neurofibromatosis (NF) Center, presented at Neurology Grand Rounds last Friday. During his seminar, he outlined the barriers to the effective management of children with NF1-associated brain tumors. Dr. Gutmann also highlighted the exciting progress being made by his colleagues at the Washington University NF Center, and how the treatment of affected children is likely to change as a result of this groundbreaking work.

Joining Dr. Gutmann were six-year-old Ally and her father Ed. Ally has been cared for by Dr. Gutmann and a team of specialists at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital since August 2011, when Ally was found to have an optic pathway glioma. After surgery and chemotherapy, Ally’s tumor is now doing well. A busy first grader, Ally woke up early to participate in Grand Rounds. She told the faculty and trainees about a new genetically-engineered mouse she named “Cocoa” that Dr. Gutmann and his team have generated with the same inherited NF1 gene mutation as Ally has.

Ally said, “I was a little nervous about talking in front of all of those people, but it wasn’t too scary after I was done. My dad took me to Chick-fil-A afterwards, so it was worth it!  I wish Cocoa could have been there, though.” Ally’s father, Ed added, “I enjoy knowing Ally’s progression is being followed so closely.  I know we are in good hands with Dr. Gutmann and his team.”

Written by Kirsten Brouillet, Team NF Coordinator



Courtney’s Corner: Staying Active This Winter

Bowling_1After the excitement of the holidays ends, the winter months can begin to feel somewhat daunting, especially in St. Louis, where the cold weather can last well into March. As my two children spend more time indoors, they become easily aggravated with each other – often fighting over nothing, and I find myself turning to screens for easy entertainment. Thus, each year around this time, I start thinking about what I can do to make these cold months pass more quickly and peacefully.

Keeping kids active during the winter can be hard, especially when weather limits the time spent outside. Indoor swimming can be a really fun escape from the cold, and community recreation centers, YMCAs and even high schools typically offer open swim time. If your family doesn’t have any of these resources nearby, consider calling a local hotel to see if they would be open to letting your little ones swim for even an hour during less busy times.

Bowling is another excellent indoor activity to consider! Don’t underestimate how young kids can be to start bowling. With bumpers, light bowling balls and bowling ramps, children as young as three years old can bowl.

Alternatively, the cold weather actually creates extra excitement at the zoo, making winter months an excellent time to visit. Animals from cold habitats are more active, and the crowds are much smaller. Before you visit, check your zoo’s website to see if they have any activities already planned, such as treasure hunts or specific lesson plans.

If the weather is too treacherous to leave the house, create activities inside. Obstacle courses are easily made with pillows, yarn and balloons. A dance contest gets everyone on their feet. Some board games focus on lots of movement, such as Hullabaloo. Simon says, hopscotch and red light/green light all work on motor skills as well as balance, motor planning and strength.

Beyond finding alternative cold weather-appropriate activities, try to embrace the slightly slower pace of the winter months. Remember that the warmer months are right around the corner!

Courtney Dunn, PT, DPT