The use of technology with children can be a little controversial. But love it or hate it, you can’t escape technology in one form or another nowadays. For most children, touchscreens are rather captivating. It does amuse me when you see a toddler walk up to a TV screen and prod and poke it, then look disappointed that it’s not touchscreen!
I have been using my iPad at work for about 3 years now. Through trial and error, I have learnt some useful things! So today I’m going to give you some tips about using an iPad/ tablet in speech therapy.
- Motivator: Some children are highly motivated by the iPad. Then it is the tricky balance of using it to motivate, but not letting it take over the whole session! I often say that we will complete one task I choose and then they can pick a game on the iPad. There are some nice quick apps, such as Robot Lab from Toca Boca that work brilliantly for this.
- Hold on! Don’t be afraid to hold onto the iPad and move it away from the child so you can give an instruction or slow the task down. Remember that you are in control. I know as a new therapist I had to learn that sometimes you have to hold onto the cards or toys to stop them being snatched and it is no different with the iPad! For some children it may be tricky to have it removed. In this case I put my other arm between the iPad and the child to block them from the screen. When I am ready for them to continue I move my arm.
- Protection: The first items I purchased after the iPad itself were a good quality screen protector and a case. The screen protector keeps my iPad safe from soggy fingers and dribble. The case keeps it safe from me dropping it! The children are very careful with it. You can purchase very cool looking monster cases that they say you can throw the iPad around the room in safely. I must admit that I find a standard case fine, as I always hold onto the iPad in sessions. I currently have a Marvel case which starts some interesting discussions with the children!
- Be ready: If possible and especially if the child has a short attention span, try and have the app ready to go before the session. The last thing you want is to be scrolling through settings screens before the child can play.
- Rules: Before you introduce the iPad, be clear in your head about how you are going to use it. I always have the rule of “Elizabeth chooses first, then you choose”. This is repeated every session, without exception. That way you can choose an app that targets a skill you want to work on and then the child can choose a motivator type game. I also choose when the iPad is finished and goes back in the bag! I have found that as long as you introduce these rules straight away, the majority of children are fine about them.
- Listening or finished: This is really a rule, but I thought it was important to talk about. Some children can become very fixed on the iPad and find it hard to shift attention between it and me. When I use the iPad in therapy, it is to aid speech, language and communication. So if a child can’t use the iPad and communicate with me, it is time to turn it off. I will warn the child that they need to listen or the iPad is finished. If they continue to ignore me or not listen to the instructions, I will put the iPad away.
- Guided Access: This is a setting in the iPad. It is fantastic for children who try and press the home button or repeatedly go into the app’s settings. It allows you to turn off the home button and block areas of the screen so they no longer respond to touch. First, you have to go into the settings and then accessibility. Then scroll down to guided access and make sure it is turned on. Then go into the app you want to use it with and quickly press the home button 3 times. This brings up the guided access settings screen and you can make selections from there. To disable the setting, you again have to quickly press the home button 3 times and enter your passcode. I haven’t yet had a child figure that out!
- Help: Don’t be afraid to ask the child if they need help. Sometimes the iPad can be tricky, particularly if you are moving smaller objects around. If the child is finding it hard or is getting frustrated I will ask them if they want help – not every child does! If they do, I ask them to make a pointy finger and then take their hand to move the item on the screen.
- Pictures: I have an iPad with data so I can access the internet. I find it useful being able to find a picture in google of something I am describing to a child. Being able to see an image helps with vocabulary learning and memory. Just remember to keep the screen hidden from the child until you have found the image you want to show them. You never quite know what you will see in a google search!
- Apps: There are some great speech therapy specific apps available. You can normally find reviews on SLT blogs before you buy them. However, there are also a number of non SLT apps that are fantastic and that I use every day. Check out our Freebies page for some recommendations!