COOL Games - Free Naming Games (using voice recognition)
CVI Scotland has developed a number of free games to help children with CVI learn the names of things.
It is well evidenced that CVI can affect recognition, of all sorts of things, including recognising people, recognising facial expressions and body language, recognising shapes, recognising objects... CVI can affect recognising pretty much anything!
There are different reasons why things may not be recognised. One is of course because they are not seen. Another is the very complicated difficulties where the child does not have the mental visual capacity to recognise things, as is the case with ventral stream disorders. Another is because the child has yet to learn the names of things.
Not knowing the name of things can look like:
1. A learning difficulty, for example not being able to follow a simple instruction like 'pass me the ruler', because the word ruler is not known to match the 'thing' called a ruler (even though the child can quite possibly use a ruler to draw neat lines and to measure). Not knowing the name of something does not mean the thing itself is not known.
2. A language difficulty or delay. The reasons names of things are not learnt is the same as the reason language is not learnt or delayed for many with CVI (as explained in our pages on Language (for non-verbal children with CVI)).
3. A child being difficult, and deliberately not doing something that should be obvious to them.
4. A child not seeing something.
Think of something as simple as a spoon. Spoons come in all shapes and sizes. They are made out of different materials and can feel different. They are made in different colours. Looking at them from different angles, they can look very different, and a spoon nearby will look bigger than the same spoon across a room. And often, the whole spoon is not visible, because it is partly submerged or fully submerged, maybe in coffee or sugar, or cake-mix if baking. Spoons are rarely seen alone, often they come with other cutlery, including other spoons, and with lots of different foods and drinks. Spoons have different purposes, to transport food into our mouths, to stir, to measure - in rugby a wooden spoon is a prize given to the team who comes last in a tournament!
Think about all of the above, for a simple spoon, then add CVI, where size and distance may be harder to judge, where only a part may be visible at a time, and the part that is visible might not actually be a part of a spoon at all, maybe just sugar or cake-mix. The visual clarity or contrast may be reduced, making the spoon less clear, particularly amongst other spoons and things like coffee and food to mentally process at the same time.
All of this, for something as simple as a spoon!
Names of things, particularly simple things like spoons, are assumed, so when stirring the cake mix and a parent refers to the spoon, how is the child meant to know exactly what is being referred to? And so the names of things don't get learnt - for some children a few things, for others many things. The good news is that teaching the names of things is relatively straight forward, as opposed to dealing with ventral stream disorders, which are much more complex.
If the word spoon is used for every 'spoon' experience, the brain will make the connections and should eventually connect with word with all things 'spoon'.
One problem is that it is not clear where names for things are not known. A child does not know what they do not know, of course.
One area that is often missed is a child's understanding of what a colour is. Unlike words for objects that can be seen and touched, words for colours are just descriptions of what things look like. This can be difficult for young children to master, especially if their vision is not the same as others. So the child may not know what colours actually are.
Think of the orange part of a carrot. What is the orange? Some may know that colours are processed as wavelengths of light, and that certainly answers 'how' it is orange, but not what orange is. What is colour, in terms of carrots?
Colour is an abstract concept. We explain this in more detail in our introduction to the COOL Games (all links below). The colour orange is not invisible, but a child who has not learnt the concept of colours, will struggle to identify things by their colour - because the idea of colour makes no sense. We call this colour concept difficulties.
A simple way to find out if a child has colour concept difficulties is to take something with a number of different colours, like a set of coloured pencils, and ask them to pass you one, then another etc by their colour. Remembering the challenges of clutter, time needs to be allowed for visual search, ideally in a quiet and otherwise uncluttered environment.
If the child hesitates, or seems to guess, or maybe only confidently knows one colour (often orange, because oranges are orange), then they may have colour concept difficulties. This problem can be misdiagnosed as colour-blindness, because a child appears to not see a colour.
The games show images and use voice recognition software to recognise a correct spoken answer. Each game has multiple variations which are randomly combined, so it can be played over and over and should be different every time.
Colour Concept Games
The Colour Concept Games are for the children who are unable to select an object by colour alone (as described above). There are four games and these need to be followed in order. Each game needs to be completed and repeated until the child confidentially knows the answers. This can take many weeks because the brain is having to create new pathways, to match the colours seen with the concept of colour.
Colour Naming Games
Once the concept of colour is established, then it is time to match all the other colours with their names. We are launching COOL Games with two colour naming games, one includes many common colours, and the other, looks at light and dark, to introduce shades and tones. Further games with more exotic and unusual colours will be added.
Object Naming Games
We are launching COOL Games with a few quite simple and widely applicable object naming games, around eating and drinking, personal care, types of fruit and transport. As with all the games, there are many different options, and the same game played repeatedly will be different every time. The images used vary, some are very clear and simple, others are more complex, often more like how they would be experienced in real life.
These games are not designed to be played in isolation, but to be a part of a learning and teaching partnership, repeatedly matching consistent experiences with their correct names. To be most effective, the objects and colours used in the games should also be identified and named when encountered in real life.
We hope that this simple explanation as to why names may not be learnt so easily by children with CVI, with how simple the approach to teaching names is, will encourage those supporting children to incorporate this kind of approach into the methods they use.
Voice Recognition Software
The voice recognition software is from Google, so we do not have any control over it. There is an ongoing joke about voice recognition software and the Scottish accent, and we have certainly found that not all the words we think we are saying are clearly picked up, but this has added an element of fun and much laughter. Some words are simple, but others, particularly short words, may need to be said a few times, extending different sounds, for example with 'blue' - a one syllable word, the 'b' can be missed. Many with CVI need words to be spoken slowly, 'b' is a short burst of a sound (called an explosive consonant, because the sound sort of explodes from the mouth) - and here we have another reasons names are not known, because they are not always heard clearly.
More than anything else, have fun. Laugh with the voice recognition, when it keeps thinking you are saying Spain when you are saying spoon - it's funny! Making it fun will make the learning fun, and that will make it more effective.
We will be adding many more games and will notify of new additions on our Updates page and via twitter @scotlandcvi and our Facebook page.
The CVI Scotland Team
PS COOL runs on Google Chrome which can be downloaded for free onto most computers including Macs. Currently tablets and smartphones are not supported. You should be automatically directed to download it, if not already installed on your device.
PPS If you were wondering, COOL is from COlour concept and naming toOL_. COOL (but we think the games are pretty cool too!).
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