An iPad for the Holidays Now What?
This holiday season you have purchased an iPad for your child–now what? We know that looking for appropriate apps can be overwhelming and figuring out how to get started with an iPad can turn a well-intentioned gift giver into a Grinch. Here are some tips for getting started, making the most out of the iPad, and celebrating the season with the ones you love.
In this article we are going to cover three topics to get you started:
- The Basics on Accessories
- Making a Plan for using an iPad
- App Suggestions
Items to consider before you gift an iPad to your child can be as important as the device itself. You don’t want your investment to be wasted because your child drops the iPad on the first day and needs a holiday miracle to fix it!
First, consider where your child will use the iPad. Will your child mostly use it at home or will h/she take it to therapy or school? Do you need a handle or carrying strap or simply lots of cushioning against inevitable drops? Will your child be using it as a dedicated communication device?
Our favorite cases for impact protection.
Big Grips Frame ($34.95), Gumdrop case ($58.99) and Big Grips Tweener ($24.95) for the iPad Mini. Recommended cases for carrying from place to place as well as for a dedicated communication device include iBlason ($19.95) and GoNow Sleek case ($59.00). Lifeproof cases ($129.99) are the most expensive of this group, but are waterproof and offer drop protection as well as a carrying strap – great for older kids or those who may drool a lot or get it wet.
Second, consider how your child will access the iPad.
Is your child able to access the iPad with an open palm or isolated finger? If your child can hold a pencil, perhaps a stylus could be a helpful tool for encouraging fine motor skills. If your child is in a wheelchair, do you need a wheelchair or table mount for the device?
Using a stylus may be a great way to encourage the development of fine motor skills. Some of our favorite off the shelf styli for children are the fun triangular AppCrayon by Crayola ($9.99), the chunky Alupen stylus ($15.99) and slender Bamboo stylus ($28.). For those children who may need an adapted or custom-made stylus, such as a mouthstick stylus, Ivo Beckers at offers a variety of stylus options at affordable prices. AbleNet makes excellent products for mounting the iPad, including the Tabletop Suction Mount ($105) and the iDevice Friction Knob Mount ($280). Both of these mounting options offer excellent stability and positioning to adapt to your child whether in a wheelchair, hospital bed, or using at a table.
Now that the iPad is safe and easily accessible for your child, you need a good plan for using it with your child.
Smart App Selection
An iPad is a wonderfully fun device, but it can also be a powerful learning tool. How do you plan to use it? Before you introduce the iPad to your child, speak with therapists, teachers, or other professionals in your child’s life and find out what skills they are currently working on. Check to see if any of them use iPads and have apps that they would recommend to support therapeutic and educational goals. Some examples might be improving articulation, sight word development, increasing attention to task, following a visual schedule, etc. If not, make a list of skills and goals you have and go to BridgingApps.org to search for apps.
BridgingApps provides a shortcut for finding apps, especially for people with special needs. All of the reviews are conducted by therapists or special education teachers. Overwhelmed by searching? We have a solution! Check out other parents’ and professionals’ recommended lists posted on the site. Features to look for in an app that we have found beneficial for special needs users are excellent graphics and sound, the ability to customize an app to your child (i.e. import pictures, record sound, type text), ability to adjust the difficulty level, and the ability to share. Sharing could be emailing the picture, converting a document to a pdf or saving results that show progress within an app.
Think about how you can use the apps to engage your child and have fun, but also develop skills. If you are working on fine motor skills, try Bubbles (finger isolation), iBaby Buttons (visual discrimination) or Paint Sparkles (handwriting). The key is to start with something simple and appealing that grabs their attention and helps them engage in a meaningful way.
One of the most gratifying ways we have seen adults using an iPad with their children is by engaging in “shared enjoyment.” Just as you play with your child using traditional toys, taking turns on a game using the iPad is enjoyable for caregivers and children. Such interactions can help teach vital skills of turn-taking, social skills, language development, attention to task, and patience. Super creative apps like Story Land, My PlayHome, Cookie Doodle, Futaba Classroom Games for Kids, and Winter Land are some good examples. Make a holiday card and email it to a loved one using Dr. Seuss Camera – Grinch Edition.
Managing Apps and Stimming
One way to manage apps on the iPad is to rotate them, just as you might rotate toys so children are offered many opportunities to practice different skills. Once you have purchased an app, you own that app forever. You can delete it temporarily from your iPad by pressing on the icon, waiting for it to wiggle, then hit the “x” to delete. To put it back on the iPad, go into App Store, type in the name of the app and reinstall it. Many parents complain that their children “stim” on the same app over and over or “get out of apps” that parents or teachers want them to work on. Did you know that you can lock a user into a particular app using an accessibility feature called Guided Access? Watch a short video at http://bridgingapps.org/2012/08/ios6-guided-access/. This feature gives parents and caregivers some control over how the device is used.
Some BridgingApps favorites are:
Price: iOS $3.99 / Android $2.49
Price: iOS $3.99 / Android $2.99
If you are interested in searching for more apps, creating your own list of apps and sharing them, please go to BridgingApps.org. BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, is a community of parents, therapists, doctors, and teachers who share information about using mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, and Android) with people who have special needs.
Sami Rahman and Cristen Reat are co-founders of BridgingApps.org. Both are parents who found success when using a mobile device with their child with special needs.
Product Images Courtesy Big Grips, AbleNet, Crayola, and LifeProof.
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2013 Magazine