Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why I bought an iPad for my 4 year old

Back in mid-June I asked on twitter and Facebook if anyone had recommendations for a case for an iPad for a 4 year old. Very few people knew then that Christopher is PDD-NOS, so there were a few wise-ass comments, a few that questioned my sanity and a pointer to the Belkin case at Best Buy.

The first time I saw an iPad was at work where my boss bought one for the office to play with. I was fourth or fifth in line to get it, and loaded a couple of kids games on it before bringing it home for a long weekend. Much to my surprise, Christopher figured out how to use it immediately. He hadn't (and still doesn't) show any interest in the iPod touches the girls have so I didn't expect much. Boy was I wrong. Within a few minutes he knew how to open the games, close them, touch the screen, draw in the drawing app and navigate.

The weekend went by really quick, but one thing was clear, we needed to get one for Christopher. So I ordered one in June. The original idea was it would be Deb's and that Christopher would use it for educational games etc. Well, as those of you with kids can probably guess, that didn't happen ;-) The device was delayed in shipping, so I received it on a Friday, loaded it up with apps and Deb took it and the kids to Connecticut for their summer visit on Sunday. It would be almost 3 weeks before I saw him using it after the first day.

(FYI, I did come up with some ideas on how to use one in a business environment when 'playing' with the work one.)

While he was in Connecticut and Maryland visiting family, everyone commented on how well he used it and the ways he was interacting. They didn't have wifi in either place so the fun didn't start until they got home ...

The first thing we noticed the few days he was here, was he would interact with Talking Carl, tickling, yelling etc. which in July was very unusual. Then Christopher was mostly consuming media, not interacting with it.

One of his favorite games called '5 in 1' which has matching card games (think 8 or 16 cards face down, pick one and find it's match) using letters, numbers and animals. Not a week before the iPad arrived he wouldn't do something similar for his pediatrician, but he picked up on it pretty quickly. He now has another using Thomas characters but that's only 8 cards so he gets bored quickly with it.

The biggest investment at the time was a PECS card application called Grace App for Autism ( While technically not a PECS application (I think PECS is a name brand) it is an application that he can scroll through and find the picture cards to build a story strip to let us know what he wants. It was $35 which is pretty expensive for an application, but the first few weeks was pretty handy. One nice feature of the application is we can upload our own pictures to it, so I scanned all the ones we've made the previous 15 months and put them on it.

Christopher is talking a lot more now, but sometimes when he gets frustrated that we don't understand him he'll open that app and find the picture.

The iPad also came in handy when potty training. He's been very difficult to potty train, since he doesn't want to sit still for very long and can't really play with his trains or Legos on the toilet. One weekend in early August I sat him on the toilet, loaded up a movie on Netflix on the iPad and spent the whole weekend in the bathroom. We watched movies, played games and read stories (There is a really good Toy Story Disney book app that is free). By the end of the weekend he knew to go the bathroom on the toilet and we've pretty much stopped wearing pull ups during the day.

Except that now he wants the iPad exclusively to watch movies. So I logged out of Netflix automatically and told him it was broken. He seems to understand that so the drama stopped. Until someone showed him the YouTube application. You want a headache? Go to YouTube and search for "thomas the tank engine accidents happen". I don't know the story behind it, but basically it is videos of Thomas engines crashing to a song 'Accidents happen'.

Next huge drama was that those videos were all he wanted to do on the iPad, so I had to hide the app. Something good did come out of it though, he started mimicking some of the crashes using his trains, which is something he hadn't done before. So we're torn between him obsessing about those videos and how he's starting to mimic! (Also, there are some bizarre videos on YouTube about Thomas. He didn't know what to think when Thomas went into the shed and blew up the place because he was the mad bomber.)

Also, Christopher started ABA therapy in early August and his therapist is using the iPad for games, interactions etc. His therapist says it is a great tool for the things they need to do.

So yes, I bought my 4 year old an iPad. And so far it is one of the best 'non-traditional' thing we've done to help him.


Grace App said...

Hi Chris, 4 is very young for potty training in our world so don't put too much pressure on yourself.

I used an iPhone initially with Gracie and found I could hold up the 3Gs and film a short clip of a tv show either on Youtube or the DVD player, then save it to the album. These clips transferred to the iPad and Gracie can watch them offline when ever she wants without needing to use Youtube or the internet.

Yes she perseverates on certain clips "Oswald the Octopus" is a favourite - but I also make clips of HER doing preferred activities that she enjoys reliving. We can watch and pause and practice Tacting (naming) aspects of it.

iDraw For Free is a great little app for adding quick sketches to Grace App - and drawing together of course.

Today I was sent a link to a super duper cover that I am looking forward to trialling

I am also getting a friend to make me a prototype for a carry case - I would put the rubber case inside it. Will let you know how it goes.

Thanks for the mention of Grace. Love any feedback.

From Lisa Dom Gracie's Mum

Laura said...

Chris, you should consider writing something abou tthis for a Parent Magazine. Good stuff!