Category Archives: reviews

Saving Time: Food on the Table

How much time does the average parent have for making dinner? None. How much time does the average autism parent have for making dinner? Ha! Your time is precious and so is your sanity. In addition, the task of creating a meal while dodging allergies, avoiding ingredient phobias or implementing doctor-prescribed diets can be daunting.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a little about a website I’ve used to help keep my meal planning efficient without hitting the I’m-sick-of-spaghetti wall.

Food on the Table

Food on the Table

Food on the Table (foodonthetable.com) started out as a website to help parents find new, healthy recipes that took advantage of sales at local grocery stores. Now they’ve grown to help thousands of families and have iPhone and Android apps to help make the process even easier.

Meal creation

First off, Food on the Table’s (FOTT for short) recommendations for recipes are useful, not crazy complicated and don’t require lots of special ingredients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched for “chicken pasta with white sauce recipe” only to be inundated with a list of requirements that necessitate a trip to Restaurant Depot and 4 years of culinary training to compose. I’m just hungry, don’t have time and need something with spice! Thankfully, the list of recipes on FOTT also take advantage of prepackaged things to reduce the time to create good tasting dishes. Got food allergies? Got kiddo-won’t-touch-that-green-stuff syndrome? You can narrow down your search with categories or even specify ingredients to exclude. FOTT is not quite powerful enough to handle the most specific requests: Kay recounts to me how one of her son’s classmates in elementary school would only eat NutriGrain bars and Cheetos (his menu has since expanded). But then again, that grocery list is pretty short!

FOTT recipe categories

The layout is clean, pictures make your mouth water and hovering over each recipe pulls up info on local sales. Clicking on a category on the main page will bring up a list of recipes with that main ingredient, calling out the total prep and cook time on the right side. Clicking on a recipe will pull up the total ingredient list, with steps, ratings and comments from other users.

Make sure you’re really saving time by staying on task and not checking out that awesome spicy shrimp in avocado and summer tomatoes, with asparagus and crea … Focus Nathan!

Categories range from specific on-sale entrees like catfish fillet or bone-in porkchop, to more general things like pasta, shellfish, meat-free, etc. They include curated recipes (labeled original) as well as user submitted. You can also search for recipes that have been tagged with more specific information like gluten free or low carb to narrow the results. I couldn’t find any recipes tagged with casein free, but lactose free comes close.

Grocery List

Once you’ve picked a couple of meals, FOTT intelligently organizes your ingredient needs by category so you don’t have to spend an hour criss-crossing the store (no more cramped, dirty stick-notes for me!). You can see the estimated nutritional information for each meal and even browse all of the sales at the local store. I have an Android phone, but their iPhone app is just as functional.

FOTT recipes on Android

For a low-tech solution, you can also print the grocery list. Easier to divvy up for the fam! You can use the phone only app if you want, but creating an account online will allow you to synchronize lists as well as protect from data loss if you lose or upgrade your phone

Free and Premium

So what’s the skinny on the cost? The free plan lets you choose up to 3 meal-plans per week. Which is to say, not a huge help if you’re trying to do all your meal planning in one place. However, FOTT does let you add your own ingredients to the recipe list (you’ll just have to remember what they’re for).

The paid version removes that meal cap as well as opening up a larger selection of recipes. Cost ranges from about $10/month down to $6/month depending on the length of your subscription. If it helps you find more, better sales, I’m sure you can make up the difference, but I’ve only been using the free plan, so take my advice with a grain of salt (hehe).

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We’re Autism Labs and we make software for low-functioning autistic individuals and their families.

Sorting and Matching Apps

Being able to associate everyday objects with like things, their pronunciations and purposes is a small but important step in learning to become independent. Whether it’s a spoon or fork, cat or bird, socks or sweaters, programs that teach sorting and matching should be in your educational quiver. This post explores how we decided on features that FaceUp Matching would have as well as the descriptions and thoughts on other iPhone and iPad apps that are out there. With the exception of FaceUp Matching, we have no relationship with any of the individuals or companies that created these applications; we just want to showcase anything that could help further your child’s education.

When I began creating our FaceUp app, one of the main concerns was that existing applications were too visually noisy or seemed far too immature for young adults with autism. Instead of cartoons and corny sound effects, we wanted to use real photos and human voices. Fortunately, I was more than happy to work with a simple design and real pictures because in many ways it let me focus on making a stable program quickly, in addition to being less distracting. We tested it with a young man who likes matching apps on his clunky touchscreen desktop computer at home, so it didn’t take long before he was up and running, and enjoying FaceUp during our field tests.

Before developing the FaceUp app,  we looked at a wide variety of apps that might work for the young adults with special needs. Here are some of the interesting apps that we found:

Sort it Out

This app teaches sorting through a variety of categories: types of transportation, toys, colors and more. Each screen presents the user with some way to distinguish the different categories and the user drags icons to the proper zone from a starting area. For example, toys are organized by shelves and you need to drag the basketball to the top shelf, doll to the middle and toy trains and cars to the bottom. Wrong matches are reset to the starting area.

I like the simplicity of the layout; it’s very easy to get up and running; and the sounds aren’t too distracting (and can be turned off). This will require some fine motor skills, so if both association and coordination are difficult, this app might be too advanced. The starter version is free, but you’ll only get 2 screens (which will probably become boring quickly). Upgrading to 12 screens will set you back $1.99

Itunes link for Sort It Out 1

Clean Up: Category Sorting

cleanup

Another sorting app we’ve found is Clean Up. It’s pretty straightforward: 3 categories of items (toys, food and clothes) can be moved to their proper end destinations and the user is rewarded with a gold star and audio response. You’ll get 75 different items total, split among the different categories.

I love the clear photographs in the app paired with a no nonsense background, although the drawn forms look a little haphazard. This app goes for $1.99 on the app store.

Itunes link for Clean Up

Magic Sorter

By far the most comprehensive app in this group, Magic Sorter is actually 5 games in 1 and purports to aid in motor skill and cognitive development. The premise is simple: drag objects of different types or sizes onto the appropriate silhouette.

With lots of color and fun shapes, this app has potential to keep your rascal focused in for a long time. Pretty cheap too at $0.99

Itunes link for Magic Sorter

If you’ve tried and any of these apps and love them, or if they’ve completely useless and you think I’m crazy, send us a line! We love to hear your opinions. I plan on putting out more app reviews over the coming months so stay tuned!