Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guest Blogger Cynthia

Have you ever had a hunch about something that could turn out to be a spectacularly expensive flop or a priceless investment? Here, I am not talking about the stock market -I am talking about buying an iPad for a three-year-old. My son Aiden, has classic autism and is nonverbal (I prefer the term 'pre-verbal', because I know the words are coming) and in January of this year I had a hunch.

He had started a special education class after a full year of intense speech therapy and constant work at home. Things were clicking in my head...he responds so well to vertical presentation, he repeats phrases more often from repetition like from the television, bright colors and movement engage him.. then I saw him interact with the adapted pc in the classroom and wanted one for our house. There were some problems with that idea because putting any three-year-old in front of a pc is risky anyway, nevermind the autism. Should I get an old pc and buy a touchscreen ?...and then the software...and then set it up in a place he wouldn't knock it down...and do all games work with the adaptive touchscreen? and, and, and well, I think you get the idea. This is when I started to hear about iPads. *hunch time* An iPad might end up costing a similar amount of money and I couldn't spend that much on a hunch unless I found a way to get the money without taking away from my other two children. So I sold necklaces.

Someone decided that I had a great hunch (or I make lousy necklaces) and gave him an iPad. Pressure time. It's one thing to have this hunch fail after I purchased an iPad -after all, we are a family of five -someone would put it to use, but I found myself anxious over such a gift. Someone trusted my hunch and spent a nice chunk of money on that hunch.

I worried for nothing. From the moment my son held that gift, things have not been the same here. It was an immediate love that hasn't dulled since he got it in February. From the moment he started to maneuver its screens I was shocked at his abilities. His movements were slow and jerky at first (thanks to delayed fine-motor functions) but you should see him now! He stays on task. He has an impressive memory that he flaunts in memory games. He puts puzzles together on screen that I never could have gotten him to do sitting on the floor before! He is spelling words! The most impressive thing? He is speaking more and doing it appropriately. He also looks at people while he is playing to see if they are watching him accomplish a task or if they are as happy about a book as he is! Self-esteem is nothing to be ignored and I believe conquering these puzzles and strutting his cognitive self has spilled over into his daily interactions.

Some of you may be wondering if all of these new skills are only exhibited while he is using his iPad. The answer is: nope. He drew his first face for me on paper (complete with eyes and mouth) three weeks ago. He says words to get what he wants and if he can't recall the word, he pulls from his list of memorized phrases, and if he is just too excited to recall his words, he leads me by the hand and places it on the desired object. Today, he sat in front of his iPad with a Sprout app clip of Nina and Star doing a clay leaf craft. He took me to the Playdoh and led me back to the counter where he verbally explained the steps needed for us to make leaves together.

Here is our top ten list of apps ( Separately, our lists would differ a tad since he loves the Noisy Book, and I don't love the "baby poo" noises, but we do have common ground)

1. I Love You Through and Through (Scholastic) Nothing sweeter than seeing Aiden perform this book while the story is being read.
2. The Monster at the End of this Book (Sesame Street) Who doesn't love Grover?? A great book that has cause and effect value as well as highlighting each word defining word and sentence structure.
3. Little Bella's -I Close My Eyes (Tui Studios) This is the book that Aiden fell in love with first. Breathtakingly beautiful, she will draw everyone into her love of imagination.
4. Bob Books #1 Reading Magic (Learning Touch) Want help teach letters? How about phonics? Maybe story progression? Hands down, one of the best, most interactive learning books available.
5. Winnie the Pooh -What's a Bear to do? Puzzle book (Disney) Pooh needs honey for his pots and my son gets to solve puzzles and hear an adorable and very simple story.
6. ABA Receptive Identifications by Function ( All of's apps get a high rating from Aiden and me. No, I'm not listing this to make me look good, my son actually adores this app. Making choices by function is difficult for people on the spectrum and it's easy to understand why; If you are given the task of picking the object that you carry and are given the choices of an apple, a clock, and a book bag, your inner test-taker will pick the book bag, but that choice is not so easy for a literal mind who clearly sees that all can be carried...this app helps make the distinctions.
7. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (Thup games) Puzzles, matching, letters, stickers and an adorable monkey. This was Aiden's very first app and still in his top ten.
8. Nick Jr.'s A to Z with Moose and Zee (Nickelodeon) Find the letters and have fun!
9. Sprout Player (PBS) I had a strict "No video" rule for the iPad, but gave this a shot because I heard so much buzz... This is wonderful for my son. He can back up the clips at-will and review words as many times as need until a "click" happens. Very well made and has not turned into a fixation for my son.
10. ABC Expedition (Meldmedia Inc) There are a ton of ABC apps on Aiden's iPad (generalization!!) and this is so clear and adorable with a bonus side of entertaining.

Thanks Cynthia and please check out Cynthia's blog at 


  1. I am so happy this is working out for you! Do you have any advice you could offer on how you got your son to sit well and work. My son turns 3 in August and I have the hardest time getting him to stay on task. He is non verbal with developmental delay and an undiagnosed condition. Maybe it is the apps we are trying or he's just not ready. Just thought I would ask. Thanks!!!

  2. Honestly, make sitting still bottom of the priority list. I try to gear the apps to what my son shows an interest in that also fall within my guidelines for learning. Keep adding and showing your son HOW to work them. Demonstrate without words occasionally also. Lots of stimulation from words, pictures and environment might distract from his ability to properly work with the apps. When my son finds apps of intense interest, he stays on task very well, but a three-year-old PLUS autism doesn't make a recipe for siting still. I believe that being still will come with age, learning, and plain old time :)