Touch screen devices and disabled children

Guest post from Elvia Vasconcelos, Includer, North London

 

I first saw the potential of touch screen devices a few months ago when Mary, mum of Julian, a three-year-old with global development delays, handed us an Ipad for us to play. Both I and Julian were thrilled and excited when we saw it lighting up. Julian knew what to do and clicked on the application he wanted to use. I followed in wonder.

So what is an app?

“Application software, also known as an application or an ‘app’, is computer software designed to help the user to perform singular or multiple related specific tasks.” Wikipedia

They can be divided into Web apps and Mobile Apps. I will be referring to the later ones as they are designed to run on smart phones, tablet computers, portable media players and other personal digital assistants.

Out of curiosity, App was voted Word of the Year in 2010 by the American Dialect Society. In 2009 the word was Tweet, the word of the past decade was Google (as a verb) and in the 90s it was Web. There is no escaping it!

Potential of touch screen devices for disabled children

Julian is three and although he picks up on everything his mum says he can’t speak. It is still yet to be seen if he will be able to write in the conventional pen and paper way but when he started the Farm animals app he did spell. I was amazed at the control he had on the device and how intuitive it all felt. That was when I first realised the true potential of the ipad, and more generally touch screen devices for disabled children and how much of an impact they will have on special needs education.

The range of applications in special needs is wide and is constantly growing. A very popular one is AutoVerbal talking soundboard. It’s a text-to-speech program developed for non-verbal people with picture buttons that speak pre-programmed messages (such as “My name is Julian”) and it also has the type anything function that allows for more advanced users to carry on conversations. I found a lot of very enthusiastic reviews on the itunes website from people that have been using these apps with their autistic children and it is easy to see the correlation of these programmes with the already instated communication tools in educational settings such as the Pecs (pictures exchange system), Visual timetables and Makaton. I found a couple of websites very helpful in tackling the 30.000 plus apps available: www.SNApps4kids.com and oneplaceforspecialneeds.com.

Overall, apps can be divided into the areas of communication and speech; language and literacy; behaviour, schedules and social cues; cause/effect. There are also tones of games, musical activities and movies.

Also for medical purposes iBiomed is a mobile software application developed for parents of special needs children, to help in managing the complexities involved with their care. It is handy for all medical conditions, but is even more useful for: Autism, Asthma, Allergies, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalga, Migraines, Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, OCD. It’s a free app and there is also an online version if you don’t have any of the touch screen devices. It seems like a very good tool and I have already signed up for a test run.

Happy apping, finger tapping!