For over a year now R. will occasionally take my finger and use it to point at something. She seems to be asking what the item is, so I tell her. It was random for a long time, she would do it once every couple of weeks.
A couple of months ago she started asking every day who particular muppets were on one of her favorite Sesame Street videos – A Celebration of Me Grover. Most of the muppets were just generic nameless characters. At about the same time she started to open Safari on the ipad and ask for Elmo. If you search for Elmo in Google and select images there are tons of pics of her favorite red monster.
It didn’t take long before she asked me to look up other Sesame Street characters and it became a new activity-her asking me to search for something and then looking at the pictures.
She’s also started watching some different shows-only on the ipad, but I’ll take it. She came to me with each show-– Backyardigans, Wonderpets–– nearly every single kiddie show and wanted me to name each character and look it up in Google. I prompted her to use her own finger and say Who is it. This has become a favorite activity, so she picked it up quickly.
Now she’ll come up to me all the time, point at the picture and say Who is it. And then I have to look the character up in Google. I’ve learned all kind of names. I now know that Caillou’s mother’s name is Doris. How fascinating that she even wondered about that. She was upset that the boy in the cat in the hat has no name. And I’m amazed that she figured that out, I never even noticed.
She has been very into Sid the Science Kid, and one of his phrases is I have a question. R. repeats this, sometimes out of context but often she’ll walk up to me and say either I have a question or just question. And then she will ask a question!
An example of an exchange:
She walks up to me and says Question.
Me: Oh you have a question? What’s your question?
She tugs on my hand and says Come.
I remove my hand from hers (I’m working on trying to remove her touching me from her communication.) and say OK, I’ll come with you. I follow her to the stairs where she has a bunch of stuffed animals lined up.
She points at one and says Who this?
I say That’s a cow.
She walks away, retrieves the ipad, opens up Safari and points at the Google search window and says That’s a cow.
I search for cow pictures for her to look at.
The teacher suggested that I have her type in her search requests, even hand over hand. Sometimes she’s impatient, but after weeks of doing this it seems like she can spell some of her favorite searches on her own, I’m just sort of holding her arm for moral support.
R. loves to take pictures with the iPad, and she is one of her own favorite subjects. I wanted to share these for Autism Acceptance Day.
This is another wonderful app from Toca Boca that happens to be free. R. has been playing with their Hair Salon app for a few weeks. (She loves their tea party app too) This is a version of the Hair Salon with a Santa Claus and a Christmas tree to style.
The app gives you tools to cut and style hair. There are hair clippers and a pair of scissors for cutting, a comb, a hair dryer, hair growing gel, and an assortment of colors for hair coloring and a camera to take pictures. The Christmas Gift app. has decorations for the tree, and when you snap a picture it saves it with the words Merry Christmas.
This is a free app with ads. The ads don’t get in the way too much. It is very simple, you touch the ornaments and they fall into Santa’s bag and they are counted.
There are so many things that R. has learned that can at least be partially attributed to the ipad.
She started to point purposefully after she learned to use it. I’m sure the ipad is not the sole reason, but it seems to have helped.
Her receptive language has increased and it seems like she is picking up words (especially labels) faster and with less trouble generalizing. I know that school and the techniques the ABA therapists are using deserve the most credit. But I also know that the ipad is helping to reinforce these words -pun intended.
I think it also has helped with her auditory processing, she is pronouncing some words better. I suspect it is because of apps like Bob Books, where she can hear the phonetic letter sound as many times as she wants. She is touching the letter, seeing it and hearing a sound.
I have posted about how her youtube video selections seem to mirror what is happening in her life. She will finish with her ABA session where they were working on the prepositions on top and under and go to youtube on the ipad and find Sesame Street videos that are teaching the same concepts.
She has stopped playing with her spit on the window (big hooray for that one!). I really think it is because she can get that same sensation from the ipad.
She is writing letters, numbers and shapes. She asks me to show her how to draw things -shapes and letters. Of course they do this in school, and I give her teacher plenty of credit for helping to teach her these skills. But I think that the ipad helped her focus in a way she could not before, and those positive experiences give her confidence and motivation.
She doesn’t have to to it all the time, but she will share the ipad with a friend, and even negotiate turn taking. I never thought about the ipad as something that she could do with a peer, silly me. They seem to do it themselves quite naturally.
R. has been really into this Bob Books #1 Reading Magic app. The app includes 32 words in twelve scenes.
So it starts like this, with a black and white picture and gray words. If you don’t do anything it makes a little sound and the images move to get your attention.
Touching Sam brings you to this page, where you can match letters to spell the word. I have it set for Level 1 and to say the letters phonetically. Each time a letter or the box where the letter goes is touched the app speaks the letter.
You are taken back to the first page with the phrase on it, and the drawing of Sam is colored in, and the word Sam is black. The cat drawing is black and white, and the word cat is gray. The cat will make a little sound and move if you do not select it right away.
There is the option to turn on and off the background music and sound effects. You can turn on and off the options for the objects to wiggle to give hints. You can also choose to have the app speak the letter names or phonic sounds.
I was surprised at how much R. likes this app. I thought the pictures might be too simple, but she plays it all the time on her own. I don’t understand using names like Dot or Mat in phrases. But I do know these Bob Books predate the ipad.
My behavior plan for the ipad has been working.
Issue 1: She wants all ipad all the time
The ipad is still a favorite activity. She doesn’t have much free time with school and therapy during the week so it hasn’t been much of a problem then. When a vacation or a few days off start she can get obsessed with it. But she will actually get tired of it, she reaches her own saturation point and walks away to do something else.
I think that having certain times of the day that she has access to it helps. I’ve learned to be flexible and it seems to help her be flexible about it. I did not want her to use the ipad when she gets home from school because she has her ABA session starting within the hour. She really wanted to use it so I tried. She does not complain when it is time to put it away, so it works out fine.
It seems like she’s more accepting of other times when I want to put it away. But it still helps to have something else to do planned, even just a transition to listening to music. I plug the ipad into speakers which are high on a shelf she can not reach.
I’m also looking at some of the “ipad time” as time we are doing something together. She will sit on my lap or with me at the table and do puzzles or whatever.
Issue 2: She wants to pick her own apps and they are usually a video or something stimmy
I’ve been trying to be more hands off and let her do what she wants. I posted about her interesting video choices recently.
On the weekends or days off if she is spending a lot of time on the ipad I’ll get involved and choose some more educational apps that aren’t her first choice.
Teaching her to say all done when she does not want to do something on the ipad has worked really well. If I run an app she doesn’t want to do, she’ll yell all done, and she is generalizing that phrase to other situations. I’ll insist that she do my chosen app for a short period of time and I’ll define it- 3 more times or whatever. Then I let her do what she wants.
She also has a tendency to find any adult app on the ipad. No not those. But she was quite obsessed with E’s Contract Killer game and a few others. The only answer is to delete them. She seems to want to play with guns and watch cartoons fight, she thinks it is hilarious. If anyone knows any more child appropriate games sort of like that please let me know.
Issue 3: She wants to use my finger instead of her own to operate the ipad. She has a short attention span at times.
This issue is resolved with familiar apps and features of the ipad. She can open apps, folders with apps, change screens, she knows how to wake it up when it goes to sleep.
I think the key is self confidence. She needs to feel that she can do whatever is expected of her, once she can do it she will spend quite a while at it.
This bring me to a new issue.
Issue 4. She doesn’t like to try new apps.
I basically resolve this with trial and error. I’m being more selective about what apps I show her, rather than offering her every free app I find. I kind of know what she tends to like.
I’ll open up the new app when I hand her the ipad and try to get her to see what it does for a couple of seconds. I try not to do this too often. It seems like if she finds the app herself she gets more interested in it. Especially if I don’t have to show her how to use it.
When she walks away from the ipad I will play with one of her less chosen apps. Sometimes this gets her interested enough to want to learn how.
She is actually starting to get manipulative about it. She mostly asks me to help her learn new apps when I am trying to cook dinner. So dinner has been getting later this week.
R. moves around all the app icons. She files them into folders of her choosing. Every time I get the apps all organized she comes along and puts them how she wants them. I can’t make sense of her order, but I’m learning to live with it. Reducing the number of total apps helps.
She also turns the volume up to the max. She doesn’t even put her fingers in her ears. I wonder if she is giving herself some kind of noise therapy.
I do put a stop to it, and turn down the volume. She is starting to turn it down herself, sometimes on request. I wish that there was some way to limit the max volume.
R. really likes to watch videos on youtube on the ipad. She can pick videos from her history, the favorites or subscriptions. (I subscribed to Sesame Street.) She also seems to remember how to find particular videos by looking at the choices that come up when a video is chosen. It looks like she is just watching a video for a second and then going on to another one, but it usually means she is looking for something.
When she started summer school at a different school she kept watching this video about riding the bus 40 blocks from home. When we started potty training she was finding all these Elmo potty videos. She does tend to like to watch a video over and over, not for an hour, but five or six times.
I’ve been trying to see how I can work with her interest in these videos. The obvious way is to sing the songs. She does like this, and will sing along and request that I sing them now. She also likes it when I change the words and add her name. She never seemed to notice before.
R. likes counting videos, for a while she was watching ones with Count and his counting organ. I started using her Count doll to count things and this is now a regular game. Mostly she wants me to count the pieces of her play birthday cake. I have to hold up the Count doll and have him count and touch each piece, and I can’t forget the ah ah ah at the end either. She is starting to do it herself, so we can take turns.
Another video she watches often is an old Sesame Street cartoon – Number 9 martian cutie. The artwork is simple enough I actually managed to draw it and boy was R. impressed. She asks me to draw it over and over. I will only draw one part at a time, she has to tell me to continue. She usually taps me and then I prompt the word. Since the martian has nine hairs, eyes and other parts we are closing dozens of circles every time I draw one. She also likes it when I hold her hand and draw it with her. I’ve been backing off and getting her to at least draw the hair and arms (just lines) with just a prompt at her elbow. She is so proud of herself.
If that crafting gene I’ve been waiting for all my life ever kicks in, maybe I can think of some way to make the martian in 3D with glue and stuff.
Her favorite dvd right now is Elmo’s Christmas Countdown. She’s been watching this video from that dvd of two actors from the Soprano’s playing Bert and Ernie. I tried acting out the videos with her Bert and Ernie dolls, but she was a little too entertained by sticking things in my ear. I don’t think I should encourage that.
I found a stuffed gingerbread man and woman a relative gave her a while back, so I’ve been playing you’ve got a gingerbread man on your (or my) head. It is usually good for some laughs, but it doesn’t keep her engaged as long as drawing martians.
I think her favorite part is when they yell gingerbread man, because I hear her saying that and she loves it when I say it. I dug out some Christmas books and we look through them and yell gingerbread man when we find one. I also printed out gingerbread men from the web and placed them around the house. She doesn’t quite get the idea of hunting for them, but she enjoys finding them and yelling gingerbread man with me. I should try drawing them with her, but I think I’d need a stencil or something.
Any easy crafty suggestions are welcome.
R. is actually bored with both of these apps, but she used them quite a bit for the first couple of weeks with the ipad. I think they helped her learn how different apps work and the fact that they are simple to do made her feel confident enough to stick with it.
This review is for the Lite/free version. There is an advertisement bar at the bottom of the screen during play. It does not seem to get in the way.
When the app loads it says tap screen to begin. This means R. can easily launch the program herself. There are no ads on the opening page.
The description of the app says that they are using the Montessori bead stair concept. There are ten red circles on the left hand side. Each circle is moved individually to the bar across the top of the screen. The app is somewhat forgiving, and will pull the circle into the correct spot when you are close. You can also bounce the circles off the opposite side and they will bounce into the correct spot. The circle makes a popping sound when you remove a circle, and a slight swishing sound if you fling it. It makes a clicking sound when the circle is put into place. The red circle turns a different color once it is in place and is labeled with the next number and the program says each number out loud. Once all ten spots are filled a button pops up offering play again. It is a bit tricky, but you can select more than one circle and count by twos or whatever. R. is not interested in that yet.
I think learning how to move the circles helped teach R. how to manipulate the ipad. There are really no wrong answers or moves, so it provides errorless learning. The music turned her off initially, but once I learned how to turn it off (press the i in the upper left hand corner) she was interested in the numbers and was able to do it herself after a while. You can also turn off the sound effects each circle makes, and the speaking of the numbers.
This is a free app. There are no ads. On the first page there is a button in the lower right corner that says play. R. tired of this app before she learned how to use the button.
Grasshopper Apps, who wrote the app, says that you can learn with sight, sound and touch. A letter is spoken for each colored letter when moved, and it can only be placed in the correct spot. When attempting to place the letter in the wrong spot the letter bounces back and a bouncing sound is heard. The number of letters that appear each time vary, and can be customized in the settings. You can select a minimum and a maximum number of letters to appear from one up to six.
The authors must know all about children with autism, because there are many ways to customize this app. There is a settings button on the front page. You can record your own voice and customize all the game sounds -including turning them off. There are separate settings for the intro music (we turned it off) and success sounds.
R. took to this app immediately, it was one of the first ones she could really do independently. Sometimes she would just play with the letters to hear the sounds. She figured out that if you try to move more than one at a time it makes strange echo-ish letter sounds.