10.11.2012

Apps & Autism: Presuming & Expressing Competence

I do my best strive to presume, cultivate, and recognize Leo's competence. To give him opportunities to access information and entertainment. To always consider what is possible, what he could do, how he might thrive -- and not worry about whether we see any kind of  "return on investment." That is why we listen to a variety of music, that is why we listen to books in the car, that is why I chuckle with admiration whenever he punks or outwits me, that is why I always try to give him a few extra beats to process and then act on input.

And that is one of the reasons I love watching him use his iPad, because it lets him explore and demonstrate such competence, whether he's reorganizing icons so his most-used apps are all in the same folder, realizing he can find songs in iTunes via their album art, or practicing typing via finding his favorite videos on YouTube. All independently initiated activities. All evidence of awesomeness.

Leo playing Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose
Awesomeness evidence is also why I get so excited about apps that let Leo express his competence. This is why I have always been such a fan of Oceanhouse Media's OMBooks, especially their Dr. Seuss series -- Leo can explore beloved books however he likes, whether he prefers to have the books read to him automatically, or "read" them himself by touching on each word individually. I've written about this before, many times.

But the reason I appreciate Oceanhouse Media's work so much is that, even while producing a constant avalanche of apps -- they just released another Leo favorite,  Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose --
Leo & Oceanhouse Media president Michel Kripalani
They also constantly strive to make their existing apps better and more useful. So now apps like Dr. Seuss's ABC, Green Eggs and Ham, and the Cat in the Hat allow users to record their own voiceover. Which means that Leo -- who knows nearly every Dr. Seuss book by heart -- will be motivated to practice reading out loud. He'll then have evidence of his competence, his abilities -- which I love seeing, even though I neither expect nor demand that evidence. He gets to feel proud and happy, and have fun doing what he loves.

We'll also be able to record favorite people reading his favorite books, so he can feel like his grandparents or uncles or aunties are still here, even when they're far away. We'll be able to share those recordings with friends and families who have the same apps. We could -- if we so chose, and assuming it would be within the boundaries of fair use -- play the Dr. Seuss audiobooks we've spent years listening to in the car, and record them right into the app, so Leo can have all of his Dr. Seuss worlds (Green Eggs & Ham and Dr. Seuss's ABC read by Jason Alexander! The Cat in the Hat read by Kelsey Grammer!) finally fold into each other for ultimate happiness. Because that's the kind of experience that motivates him. That's the kind of feature that keeps him pushing and learning. And allowing pushing and learning and demonstrating competence to happen -- keeping apps evolving to better serve kids like Leo -- is something for which both Leo and I are both profoundly grateful.

This is how all apps should be.

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Disclosure: I requested and was gifted a copy of the Thidwick app. However, I am not affiliated with or compensated by Oceanhouse Media in any other way -- as always, I only write about apps I think really make a difference.

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