by Deanne Shoyer from www.smallbutkindamighty.com
Both my children are autistic, and like a previous blogger in this series, Rebecca, I’ve been amazed at how many therapeutic applications there are for my children on the iPad. You may have seen the 60 Minutes piece which featured the research currently being conducted at the Beverley School in Toronto. This research seeks to quantify exactly how iOS devices can help children with special needs and preliminary results are showing an increase in communication of 20%.
But can general educational apps also be helpful for children with special needs? My answer to that question is a resounding, yes! I find them particularly useful for my children and I’ve outlined below some of the reasons why. High quality, educational apps do the following:
• They engage. Another previous blogger, Julia, wrote about how much fun kids have playing apps. My son Owen has very narrow interests and so teaching him play skills has always been a challenge, but he loves his iPad. He would play apps like Zoo Train for hours if I let him.
• They teach diverse skills. Unlike television, which also engages my children, when my kids play with apps on their iPad they learn a variety of skills. Take an app like i Learn With Boing: Ice Land Adventures for example – the primary benefit for me in playing with apps like these is that they improve my children’s motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination. If they also pick up information on letters, sounds and words along the way, well that’s a bonus.
• Generalize skills. For my children, the iPad has been a gateway to more experiences, a safe place where they can play, try new things and gain confidence. For example, Owen loves Eric Carle and so I downloaded My Very First App for him. He quickly became a maestro at the matching pairs game and with that new-found confidence he developed using the iPad, I was able to get him to play ‘real-life’ matching games.
• They make abstract concepts concrete. It’s tough for all children to learn abstract concepts like sharing but when the penguin game in i Learn With Boing: Ice Land Adventures requires them to literally share the iPad in 2-player mode, they not only understand the concept more readily but they learn a valuable life lesson too – that sharing doesn’t necessarily lessen their experience, sometimes it means double the fun!