Two of the most beloved elements of Leo's life collided this weekend: I was asked to give a public talk for Via Services, the organization that runs Leo's camp Via West -- all about iPads. Turns out that the camp director had read the SF Weekly article about our boy and his iPad, and was inspired not only to try to integrate the devices into the camping programs, but to educate our community on just what iPads can do for kids and adults with special needs. And that is how I ended up standing in front of 150 people, telling them which apps Leo likes and why, what a life-quality change the iPad has brought about for our boy, and also about alternative iPad funding options.
Danielle Samson, a superbly talented local SLP and iPad enthusiast who was interviewed with me on Comcast Upside a few months ago, actually gave the bulk of the talk, and joked ahead of time that she's going to start printing tour t-shirts as her iPad and AAC expertise has been in such demand. I believe it; she was intelligent, encyclopedically informed, and entertaining. The audience remained attentive and engaged for almost three hours, with questions interspersed. Here are some of the points we talked about, both in the moment and with parents/professionals afterward:
- IPads aren't for everyone. It's important to do an AAC evaluation to see if the device is compatible with your child's needs and abilities. Danielle discussed the SETT framework.
- It's important to try out an iPad before buying one. If you don't know someone who has one, call an Apple store and ask when their slow times are, and bring your child by then. And it doesn't hurt to ask if the store will let you come in 15 minutes early, before other customers arrive.
- Anecdotal information about the wonders of iPads is great, but until we have research and evidence backing up iPads for education and as AAC devices, school districts are unlikely to fund them.
- Buying a 3G iPad doesn't commit you to the network -- it gives you the option to buy the subscription by month, which is a nice backup if you intend to do any traveling. The wifi still works, of course.
- Safety/Monitoring: Make sure you're familiar with the Restrictions options in your iPad's Settings, so you can hide YouTube and Safari if need be, and turn off the Delete Apps function -- I know Leo has certainly accidentally deleted an app or two (thankfully, I had them backed up on my computer).
- Leo's iPad Apps for Kids With Autism Starter Kit (the apps that are good for Leo)
- Ten Fantastic Apps for Kids With Autism (the apps Leo chooses)
We also both wished that there were more Language (as opposed to Communication apps), as well as more options in the Visual Schedule category.
After the talk, I was inspired by Danielle's apps recommendations and also did some digging of my own, and discovered some new apps that Leo likes:
US Puzzle Map ($2.99) Lets my puzzle-loving boy indulge in his love of puzzles while his Geography-loving mom looks on and beams. It also says the name of each state out loud when you touch it to drag it into place, so Leo can learn the states' names independently without having to read them. Play with state outlines in place, or without.
NeoPaul and NeoKate (Free) Natural sounding text-to-speech. You can save your efforts in a list, which I suspect Leo will like -- he's still working on reading, but he can associate a unique visual element with its content. We'll be able to come up with a stock list of phrases for him to use.
Speech With Milo: Verbs* ($2.99) Hurrah! A language app! Milo the cute animated mouse physically demonstrates the verbs in question when you tap on him, then you tap on him again, a sentence appears with the verb in context. All verbs and sentences are also read aloud. This will be very helpful for our boy.
SoundTouch ($2.99, Lite Version) Touch cartoons of animals, vehicles, instruments, etc. and see different real-life photos and sounds. Leo went nuts over this app, to the point where I couldn't get him to go to bed, and he carried it around the house with him, trying to play it as he walked (he's never done that before).
Arithmaroo ($1.99) Very excited to find Arithmaroo! It is the only app I've found that focuses on making the user associate numbers with amounts, which is where Leo needs help.
Dot to Dot Number Whiz ($1.99, Lite Version) Leo loves dot-to-dots. This one also guides him through by flashing the next dot, and reciting the numbers along the way to reinforce his counting skills.
Here's Leo playing Dot to Dot Number Whiz. Notice how he switches hands between turns! Ambidextrousness is not necessarily a great thing in kids with special needs, so I'll also be sending this video to his OT:
The Monster at the End of This Book ($4.99, though currently on sale for .99) Our entire family already loved this book -- now Leo can not only "read" it independently, and the animation is fantastic. The best interactive book I've seen on the iPad, so far.
If you're a Bay Area local and were sorry to miss our iPad talk, Danielle and I will be presenting a shorter version at UCSF on March 10, at the two-day conference Developmental Disabilities: An Update for Health Professionals. The cost is $100 for parents and caregivers.
*I was given a free promo code for Speech With Milo, but that has no bearing on my opinion. It's a good app, and there aren't enough like it, not yet.