I am pleased to share an article about kids with learning difficulties written by one of the authors we work with at PicPocket Books. Nina Lim, whose picture book app Super Harry’s Rotten Luck was released for the iPad and iPhone earlier this month, tells of her personal experiences with her son’s language delay and the progress he’s made by using storybook apps, educational games, and speech therapy apps on the iPad. Nina describes how she works with her kindergarten age son, and the amazing steps he’s made, motivated by the iPad – like repeating words he hears on the device. Read on for the full story in Nina’s own words.
Getting an iPad for the first time is an exciting moment for any family. “Wow, look at all these cool features,” you say as you excitedly play around with your shiny new device. You can’t wait to personalise it and get all sorts of apps that you know you or your children will love.
Now imagine one of your children has a learning difficulty. Suddenly the iPad is more than just a great new toy, reading device or even status symbol. It’s a godsend. I know this firsthand.
My middle child Ethan has a language delay. He is the cutest, funniest and most good-natured boy I could wish for. He is also extremely bright and has an amazingly logical, scientific brain. Yet language and literacy have always been a struggle for him. Pulling forth words to ask for things has always been an effort. His brother and sister flew into words without a second’s thought and became very articulate early on. But not Ethan. No, for a long time during his toddler years he had no interest in speaking. Absolutely none at all. It is very hard to get someone to do something when they have no interest in doing it.
I did everything I could think of. I encouraged, prompted, gestured, encouraged again, cajoled, bribed, threatened, broke down in tears and cried, wiped my eyes, gave him a cuddle and tried again. It all seemed to no avail. Ethan was perfectly happy with life as it was and did not share my enthusiasm to hurry up and start speaking. Of course during all this time I was attending speech therapy and we worked on a range of skills with him. But ultimately Ethan had to want to do it. When there is a desire to learn, everything changes.
And here’s where the iPad comes in. Ethan used to flit from activity to activity. He would get bored and move on, or lose interest in something and get distracted. With the iPad however, he was full of interest. His whole body language would change. He would sit up straight and concentrate, he would focus on a task for extended periods of time. He would be engaged and interested, and repeat the words he heard on the iPad. Yes, repeat the words he heard on the iPad. For a mother of a language delayed kid it is such a joy to hear your child speaking. He was building up his vocabulary and learning to sit and focus and wait.
From then on we worked on a whole range of apps together. Ethan had found a highly motivating force. It was like a little light bulb had gone ‘ding’ in his head. We started with a lot of puzzles, moved on to dozens of storybook apps, and would do some of the purely educational games and specialist speech therapy apps. When I found a moment during the day I would go through an app with him. Essentially we were doing therapy at home. Things changed too. His interest was high and I was a lot happier and relaxed. I learnt to go with the flow and do what works best.
I don’t want the iPad to sound like a panacea for all problems. It’s certainly not that. But its use as a tool for children with learning difficulties is phenomenal. Especially for children who are visual learners. In our case it was a great help, and came along at the perfect time.
Ethan is four and a half now and poised to start kindy at big school next year. His language is still far behind other children his own age, but I am more confident that he will completely catch up. He has a desire to learn which is the most important thing. He loves his books, he loves hearing stories, and he taught himself how to write the alphabet and numbers. I still worry about him a lot. But he is such a happy, cheerful and content boy, I am happy to carry his worries so that he doesn’t need to.