Monday, 30 January 2012
What's On Our iPad
Usually these do not come from people who work with children with autism or parents of kids on the spectrum, but from those in the outside world. People want to believe autism is fixable and people with autism can have great outcomes and so on. People like be optimistic.
Sometimes this can be frustrating to those living with autism 24/7 because they feel their challenges are being trivialised or others just don't get how difficult it is for their kid to learn and function. The truth is that no one is going to spend hours upon hours reading about autism, learning about the various ways it expresses itself in individuals, the different interventions and treatments, the different behaviors and their functions and so on, unless they are directly affected by it i.e. unless it is their own kid. Even family members sometimes just want to hear the good report and want you to tell them the hopeful bits. These expectations from people to understand your situation or be truly sympathetic to it are often unrealistic in my opinion.
Anyway, no the iPad is not the next autism intervention. Like the chalk, the paper, the pen, token board or computer, it is just another tool you can use. It is portable, has a touch screen and pretty graphics and lots of "apps" that can be bought for a small price or downloaded for free. Some of them have some educational value, mostly it is another screen for entertainment.
We do not use our iPad except as a reinforcer for ABA therapy or in severely difficult situations (like the twice a year Eid prayers, or when we are forced to go to a new restaurant with some people and cannot turn them down. This second scenario almost never happens because we are socially handicapped :D)
But people want to know so here is the list of stuff on our iPad, right now.
Angry Birds - no need to explain.
Labrynth Lite - a maze game, where you have to guide a ball through a maze and not let it fall in to the holes along the way.
Cordy- little robot guy needs help navigating a strange grassy world. Very simple and easy controls.
Float - balloons falling on spikes, you have to use your finger to diver them away from their inevitable end.
KP Balloon - a hot air balloon kind of floats at increasing speed in the sky, avoid the dark clouds, winds and birds and bump in to the sun and rainbows.You just tilt the pad to control which way your balloon goes.
Talking Tom - annoying cat repeats everything you say in chipmunk voice.
Shape-O!'s ABC - drag shaped puzzle pieces to fi ta picture and spell the name of the object.
Dot to Dot numbers and letters - use your fingers to join the dots. Very popular with my son.
Fruit Ninja - addictive pointless game where you slice fruit but avoid slicing bombs that are flying around. Obviously my son has no concept of scoring and winning so he just really likes slicing the bombs.
My Play Home - my favourite app. A virtual home where every household item works, from the CD player to the shower. My son loves it and tries to live it in real life!
Bob Books - Probably the only educational thing we have on our iPad. If you haven't experienced them in real world life, then they are little books available at any bookstore with simple word families or sight words and give kids the confidence of having read a book on their own. The app has the same books. We don't use them much yet.
And that's it. Not the most exciting list, but there are a lot of websites that list iPad app by age, interest and function and you can google them.
I don't feel the iPad has any breakthroughs for us, except that it is a fancy toy that has kept my son interested enough to answer a few questions for it during table work. Its easy to give him some reinforcement with a few minutes on the iPad. It is quick, tangible and easy to control for the therapist. Two of my therapists have their own iPads and when they work with K, they use their own apps. Youtube app is popular because of short videos.
The fact is that it is small, easy to use and portable, which make it less distracting to have the kid get up from his chair and move to a computer or lug something bulky like a laptop around with you in times of need.
There are iPad apps with flashcards, PECS and other VB/ABA tools, but we don't use those.
If you can afford a cool toy like the iPad or have someone gift you one, then go ahead get it. As these people have made the brilliant discovery that "Autistic kids are fascinated by screen-based technology", so that's lovely that someone took the time and money to prove that blaringly obvious fact that can be applied to almost any subset of kids.
I will say however that if your kid struggles to use the computer, can't read yet, struggles to understand and play computer/video games, then the iPad offers some good ways to take a break, find reinforcement and build some confidence. For this reason it can become easily addictive and an easy escape tool, like any other screen technology. So be wary.