I purchased my iPad last year “for work” and I love it and the children I work with love it. It rarely leaves my side. I don’t think it can replace real objects/ interactions and indeed it shouldn’t; but it is a useful addition to any therapy kit. Both Helen and I are trying to find a good range of apps to use with all the different children we work with.
We have both previously talked about different apps we have come across and find useful. But today I wanted to write about a different challenge; using the iPad with children with behavioural issues. I have yet to come across a child who hasn’t enjoyed a game or motivator on the iPad. I have found that for children with reduced attention spans the iPad is great at engaging them. The only difficulty can be putting it away and not letting them use it for the entire session. However I’m sure many of us have children we think would like it, but sometimes wonder how to introduce it.
Firstly, I have a good screen protector and a sturdy case on my iPad, to avoid problems with sticky fingers or accidental knocks. So far, so good!
The children I have found it more challenging to introduce to are those that are very controlling of a new situation, those that don’t like change and those that get obsessive about technology. I have visions of my lovely iPad being launched across the room! I have found the important thing is to set ground rules about the use of the iPad. These rules must be appropriate for the child’s understanding.
For children with a lower level of understanding, I find it best to hang onto the iPad at all times! I also try to cover up the button with my hand so they can’t close the app. With one child it has taken nearly 4 months to get to point where he can concentrate on the games and listen to the instructions without getting cross that he couldn’t have the computer and do what he wanted to. At this point I would put the iPad away, even if he kept requesting it. Each week I would give it as a choice, and he did normally choose it. Initially he would only tolerate 1 or 2 turns in the app I had chosen. Now he is able to demonstrate understanding of 1ICW (information carrying word) of nouns and verbs on the iPad, which he is still unable to do with real objects. He is also able to show an understanding of basic links between vocabulary.
Another good tip is to have the app ready if you need to change settings. Nothing is more frustrating for the child than having to wait while you change settings! Also don’t be afraid of holding the child’s hand to guide them, particularly if their fine motor control is poor.
For children with more understanding, I may allow them to have the iPad on the table in front of them, but introduce rules such, “Only Elizabeth touches the button”, or “No touching the button”. I also insist that I choose when the game/app is finished; not the child. For those that get overly engrossed, I also work on turn taking and encourage eye contact – this should still be an interactive experience! I have also found for some children that a rule about listening first, touching second, can help. Otherwise they are busy pressing or selecting items and haven’t listened to the instruction or what you asked them to do.
So, if you are feeling brave, have a go. I have found the iPad to be a great therapy tool for children of all ability levels. Do you have any tips or strategies when using an iPad in therapy?
I have not been paid or asked to write this review. I am just sharing ideas I have found work.