Technology and the Autistic Child

We’re closing in on the end of the first week with the iPad.

Yesterday, the wife and I went to the local tryouts for Wheel of Fortune, held in an empty big-box store.  Now, I think that I’d worry ordinarily about a public meltdown in a place like this – hundreds of people, loud noise (let’s be honest – the shell of a big-box store is hardly going to suppress echoes and the like), and most of all, two of his Favorite Things in the Whole Wide World in One Place (letters and a spinning wheel).

Knowing that it might be that kind of a day, we brought the iPad with us.

The wife’s been downloading all kinds of software for him to work on various skills, such as puzzles and exercises for working on tracing letters.  When he was having home-visits under his IFSP, the special ed teacher was bringing an iPad with her, partially as a reward and partially as a tool to get him to do different skills that she couldn’t do with the physical tools they were provided.  Some of these applications are the same ones he’d used during the IFSP days, so we figured that he would be familiar enough with them.

For instance, thus far, he hasn’t shown any interest in Proloquo2Go.  He does like buttons on applications, and making them make various sounds, but I don’t know that he’s shown any interest in trying to decode what the application is for.

On the other hand, the puzzle applications are some of his favorites.  He loves to drag the pieces around – he might not quite get the puzzles together as quickly as other children do, but he generally gets the puzzles solved within a reasonable amount of time.

This morning, while I’m writing this, the wife’s shown him the ‘Find Me’ social app she downloaded. It’s a cute enough program – the goal is to get your child to focus on another child’s image while increasing amounts of distractions clutter the scene, like sheep.  (Think ‘Find Waldo’ with far, far fewer things in view.)  I’m not impressed by the lackluster encouragement from the application in an audio sense when the child gets it right.  On the other hand, when the Monster’s attention drifts – we have “Sunday Morning” going on the television – the application prompts aurally, “Find me!” and it does succeed in getting his attention back to the tablet’s screen.  We like that there’s at least some customization, in terms of the voices used to encourage the player, the rewards when you succeed and the figure they’re looking for.  He seems to like it well enough.

We’re going to continue to give it a try with the other applications, but as we find other ones we like or that work, we’ll pass it along…

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