Special Needs App of the Day: TransEz

Special Needs App of the Day: TransEz

This review is courtesy of Wynsum Arts’ Every App Has a Story, the stories behind Wynsum Arts’ distinguished apps.

“I didn’t realize how valuable flashcards are until I started using my own app on a regular basis.”

– Mavis Hageman, creator of TransEz and grandmother of two


When Mavis Hageman took guardianship of her grandchildren, she realized that parenting would be quite different the second time around. Her grandson (who was 5 at the time) has autism, and Hageman had to learn the strategies that would best support him — strategies that never crossed her mind when she raised her first child. For example, she realized early on her grandson responds well to visual prompts. But laminating cards is time consuming and it is burdensome to carry cards outside the home.

When her grandson took an interest in her iPhone, Hageman downloaded a few apps for him. She quickly realized that the apps allowed her grandson to focus when operating in an environment that is over-stimulating. “I could maneuver him without having to deal with the behaviors,” she says.

And Hageman started looking for an app that would offer all the visual prompts she might need too. But she couldn’t find an app that fit her needs. So she mocked up her ideal app and hired a coder.

Why Did You Develop TransEz?

Mavis Hageman: My grandson deals with a lot of sensory issues. I wanted an app that would help him transition under circumstances that can be stressful to him. I wanted to reduce the problematic behaviors he displayed when he was overwhelmed.

I needed two main tools: a timer and visual prompts to be used as flashcards or on a choice board.

I also needed an app that would be easy to work with one hand. As parents, we never have enough hands and I wanted an app that captured my grandson’s attention, not mine. I also wanted to be able to keep a hand on him in parking lots or crowded areas where he might bolt.

How Does TransEz Work?

Mavis Hageman: The first tool in TransEz is the timer. You can set it in one- to 10-minute increments. All children respond well to warnings before transitions and these warnings are especially important for children with autism. My grandson is obsessed with LEGOs. I can do a 5-minute countdown to help him transition from his favorite activity to a necessary activity, like getting ready for bed.

The second tool is a library of visual prompts that you create. You can take pictures of real places and people or you can use images of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) graphics. I’ve also created an online depository of images free for users of TransEz.

I can use the images to help my grandson understand what I want him to do. For example, he receives therapy in a hospital where a waiting room is next to the helicopter landing pad. The noise of the helicopter is very difficult for him. If the helicopter happened to land while we are in the room, I could show him a picture of his therapist and help him focus on leaving the waiting room to walk to the therapy room. This would be more effective than trying to verbally instruct him when his auditory senses were already overloaded.

When my grandson was younger, I also used the app as a choice board to help him communicate when he was having trouble finding the words he wanted. If I knew he was hungry, I could use the app to pull up a picture of an apple, a picture of a banana, and a picture of on orange so that he could tell me what type of snack he would like.

Because so many kids on the spectrum have sensory processing issues, I asked the coder to include options for different fonts and different colors within the app. I wanted parents and kids to have control over aspects of the app to make it more comfortable for the kids to use.

Although I conceptualized the app as a transitions tool, I’ve also learned that it is a great educational tool. We homeschool, and because the app has flashcard capabilities it is versatile enough to use in our classroom setting. If you touch open an image as a flash card, you can press the “sound” button to hear the audio file associated with the image. If you touch the image, the card will “flip” so that you can read the text associated with the image on the back of the flashcard. We use it to teach vocabulary, to introduce new concepts and for sequencing activities or scheduling.

I didn’t realize how valuable flashcards are until I started using my own app on a regular basis.

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