If technology allows us to do one thing well, its to develop software and networks to increase levels of communication.
Taking this as a starting point, some individuals and organisations have come up with a number of applications that can be used to assist children with learning difficulties. The apps currently on the market cover a variety of developmental issues -- including emotional, social, organisational and basic skill learning.
Below is a selection of apps I discovered and tested that are available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. For the full selection, view the gallery.
See also: Gallery: iPad and iPhone apps for children with learning difficulties
1.Eye Contact - ZooCategory: Social skills Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0.
The Eye contact Zoo game, designed for children affected by Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, rewards children for quickly focusing in on a person's eyes. Through repeated practice it can help children learn to make eye contact by habit, and cope more readily with real-life situations. Made by FizzBrain, this app costs $2.99.
2. iPromptsCategory: Schedule and organisation Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3.
iPrompts is an application created by Handhold Adaptive that offers a visual schedule, a countdown timer and a simple choice making utility. It is designed to replace needing to carry physical schedules or boards.
The visual schedule does allow for a portable way of using the feature for reference, and this in turn can be used as a public means of demonstrating cues for disabled children. The app costs $49.99.
However, when testing the app, I found that the countdown visual could be slightly confusing to younger children – an improvement would be making this element of the app clearer and more user-friendly. There is also no way to ‘lock’ the option menu.
3. ArtixPixCategory: Phonology, articulation Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.
ArtikPix is an articulation-based app with flashcard and matching activities for children with speech delays. ArtikPix contains 21 decks with 40 cards each (913 total cards) for the following sounds:
th, f, v, ch, sh, k, g, s, z, l, r, s-blends, r-blends, l-blends, p, b, m, n, t, d, and j.
The decks are combined, selected for sound group (e.g., beginning th, er), then practiced through games and activities. The features also include recorded audio and voice recording facilities. After user requests, there is now a new group scoring feature for up to 4 children to complete activities together. Made by RinnApps, the cost is currently $29.99.
4.ABA Flash Cards - EmotionsCategory: Emotional development and understanding Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 2.2.1.
Focusing on learning difficulties such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s, this free app by Kindergarten.com aims to help children to understand emotions and be able to recognise and respond to them.
The ABA flash card collection includes 50 visual prompts for 10 basic emotions. Additional features include audio and text to increase the interactivity of these flash cards, in order to reinforce learning. Flashcards can be played in the same order or shuffled. The developer's intent is to:" provide children with quality educational applications that are not only enjoyable but also enhance cognitive development, phonemic awareness, and reading readiness."
5. iRewardCategory: Rewards Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3.
Grembe Inc.'s $4.99 app iReward is a motivational tool to reward your child for completing certain tasks.
You can use visual rewards to reinforce positive behaviours – such as star charts, or token boards. The app supports multiple users and can be organised by family, classroom or patient. It includes customisable features including background and ‘reward’ tokens, sound facilities and password protection.
While scanning reviews online, it seems the application option is popular for giving children something tangible but removing the risks associated with a physical reward chart (such as small parts becoming a choking hazard).
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