by Holly Rosen Fink, Ruckus Media Staff Marketing Consultant
photo (c) 2010 Kelly Nicolaisen
Last night we led a round table on Twitter about a topic of interest to us: Apps and Autism. It was a thoughtful discussion about how iOS devices, particularly the iPad, have transformed the lives of many autistic children. Parents and special educators gathered together and talked intimately about the magical effect technology has on the autistic children in their lives. The group stressed improvements in independence, communication and life skills, as a result of their using apps, all leading to improved quality of life for a child and family.
We did something a little differently this month. We asked seven bloggers, whose blogs have an emphasis on autism, who understand what autistic children need, to help moderate the discussion. Their presence was vital to our growing knowledge of a world we are certain our story and original apps can make a difference in a child’s life. The group included Jenna Frelle fromhttp://pursuingharmony.blogspot.com, Caryn Haluskafrom http://livingwithlogan.com, Arline Allen from http://theautismprincess.blogspot.com, Varda Steinhardt from http://www.squashedmom.com, Shannon Des Roches Rosa from http://www.Squidalicious.com, Gina St. Aubin from http://specialhappens.comand J. Brown from http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_122716487786903. The group stressed improvements in independence, communication and life skills, all a result of their app experiences, leading to improved quality of life for a child and family.
Lola using her iPad photo (c) 2011 Autism Princess
We also gave away some Ruckus apps during the event and would like to congratulate our winners, @shannonrosa, @mnikpat @ColoradoMom , @AlNotAlly, @autismprincess, and @trishpip.
Below are some highlights of the conversation in case you missed it. Please note that their names link to their Twitter accounts (because you should follow them all!):
Q1: What can technology do for your children? What does it teach?
ColoradoMom Technology has helped my non-verbal son communicate. We have many iPad apps he can use.
AutismPrincess A good app will connect the user and the listener.
Special_Happens Apps have opened doors for those who had no voice, no way to communicate.
squashedmomJacob really learns best with visual cues and repetition, technology very helpful for that.
shannonrosaTechnology, iPad specifically, has allowed Leo to be independent with his learning & his leisure.
A4CWSN My son’s fine motor skills and hand eye coordination have improved a lot.
AutismPrincess It’s also great for visual schedules for those who benefit from a structured environment.
ElizabethM88The iPad has removed some of the stigmas that other AAC devices give children. People aren’t afraid, they’re interested!
shannonrosa iPad also provides consistent structure/apps access that is difficult to maintain IRL. Leo appreciates predictability.
AutismEd Can lead to improved quality of life for individuals with asd and their families.
MobileEdStoreShe has learned more commuication skills from the apps she plays with then in the classroom.
Special_Happens I absolutely think my son has been able to focus more by using apps. It’s an interaction he can manage.
techieteacher I think the visual and touch interface of the iOS devices is a perfect match with children who have autism.
lovelimes Technology can help non-verbal children express themselves.
Squashedmom They have an iPad in my son’s classroom and he is in love. Really wish we could get him one 4 home.
shannonrosa Makes it possible for Leo to demonstrate his intelligence in ways that were not apparent before, to more people.
Q2: Do you see apps supporting your kids’ learning even though they may not read yet?
ColoradoMom He can point to the apple on the screen when he wants one or choose between apple and banana. Less fits.
Stimey I actually think it might help my reader be more interested in books because he loves gadgets so much.
shannonrosa I actually think it might help my reader be more interested in books because he loves gadgets so much.
techieteacherThe visual/auditory/kinesthetic interface allows students who can’t yet read to benefit from the technology.
A4CWSNApps have the ability of using multiple iPads, a perfect way to interact with an adult not looking over your shoulder.
SLPrj I’m using the iPad in therapy with the kids I work with. It’s proven to be a very powerful motivating tool!
A4CWSNThe sense of accomplishment for children is priceless.
Special_Happens Reading comes through repetition. Flashing the words even before the ability to read is reached can only help.
techieteacherINTERACTIVITY is a huge benefit for students with autism.
Special_Happens In general, people talking barely gets my son’s attention, music however grabs him. Always.
A4CWSN Music will help with timing and math without them knowing .
Q3: How do apps improve the social skills for children with social learning challenges?
AutismEdIncreased communication opportunities.
A4CWSNRepetition, watch a video (which they like doing ) about a social situation and over time they will get it.
AutismEdAlso, cool in a public school to have open access to an iPod, iPad, etc. Less stigmatizing than other supports.
Special_HappensUsing apps that give Chewy the ability to watch and interact with right / wrong or preferred helps.
momofbestbabyApps are very good for communicating and showing pics.
Special_Happens It seems apps helps a nonverbal child communicate with his world. Gives a chance. A way to learn.
techieteacher Apps are helpful for modeling/preteaching social skills.
Q4: How do apps assist with fine motor skills? Do the visual cues help your child?
mnikpatHand / Eye coordination!
AutismEd Motivating opportunities to work on finger isolation and increased hand strength.
ihave7monstersLogan loves using a finger to “turn a page” and tilting an iPad to guide a game helps with hand/eye skills
shannonrosa Large touch screen allows Leo to manipulate, point, swipe.
azspeechguySome apps to precise movements to resize or manipulate what’s on screen.
shannonrosa Also because touch screen eliminates cursor analogy, Leo can interact directly, motivate to work on fine motor skills.
SLPrj Apps are excellent for fine motor skills – supports visual-motor integration, motivating, builds success!
lovelimesMy DD loves Present for Milo… Actually, my 8 month old loves it too.
AutismPrincess For the first time ever Lola actually listens to the entire story instead of flipping quickly.
squashedmom Jake loves appreciate interactive dragging, animation, and interesting sounds! Engage all his senses, please!
theekarenesq My 4 yr. old son loves to swipe, draw, and answer questions in Teach Me Kindergarten and works for the iPad through ABA.
Q5: Emotions – do apps help your child realize when they’re happy or sad?
Special_Happens They have the ability to see the expressions and immediately relate or not.
ihave7monsters Logan loves to mimic. If he sees a sad face, or angry face, he will imitate.
A4CWSNIf you create a video social story about being happy / sad etc it really helps.
Special_Happens Nonverbal kids can quickly scroll through and find the emotion they’re feeling to communicate it to others.
AutismPrincess Hearing Lola genuinely laugh at an app always makes me smile! It’s so “normal” haha
Q6: Let’s talk about transitions/Schedule. Do your kids have trouble getting off the iPad? How do you all handle it?
squashedmomJake needs countdowns and still often complains bitterly when its time to turn off the “screens”.
Special_Happens Visual Timers! Perfect. Even an alarm on the iPad would work, but a timer sitting in front of him!
frelleWe don’t have an iPad but giving countdown check like 5 mins, 2 mins, 1 min, or setting timers has helped w transition.
ihave7monsters An app like a thermometer filling or something so they can see the time being used up.
Grembe Love that you can gather 3 kids around an iPad and take turns with apps too
Stay tuned for another Ruckus Media Twitter Party in March. The topic will be “Apps and Going Green”. Date and time to be announced.