Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An iPad Question (or 2) Answered

Day Two of Operation: UnPlugged went well. I did not implode. That older boy of mine is smart as a WHIP. He can spell like crazy. I was blown away again sitting with him and his homework.

Tuesday nights are 'Bennett Stays at Grandparents Night' so it was just the three of us, and with me being emotionally available for a change, it was actually a little better all the way around. Carter enjoyed it. A lot. I really didn't realize what an absentee Father I had been of late to him.

He's such a great kid.

I'm going to introduce 'Daturday' each month to him after this weekend (we have a Christmas party). It is a new idea I have been toying with when it comes to trying to spend more time with him since he always gets the shaft because of Bennett's disability.

It involves him, me, and one Saturday a month where we do something super cool and utterly different. Since we don't do the breakfasts anymore since he doesn't do the Day Care thing, we should try something new, and up the ante.

But that's not the subject of today's blog. Over at Mission: iPossible, we're still running that giveaway on 2 iPads. It ends tomorrow. I was, and still am, surprised at how few entries there are. I blame myself completely. This Fall, like everything else, I let a lot of things slide, including that.

But if nothing else, I do not shirk responsibility. I let my community down by not giving it the time I should have, and it shows in the end result of what you are seeing unfold. All I can do moving forward is renew my commitment to it. Find the right balance between my family, my community, and me.

It's out there somewhere.

In the entry section of that blog post was a question. I didn't want to post the answer in the Comments, because the answer would be too damn long. I didn't want to create a new post there, because I still want the Entry Page to be the first thing people see when they go there until we start the randomized drawing when the deadline hits.

So figured I would answer it here, and link back. Sometimes it helps to have two pieces of Internet real estate.

The question came from Laura, which was:

This has to be the perfect place for my questions :-). I hear a lot about parents of special needs children wanting an iPad for their children to enhance learning and communication. I myself have a daughter with Down syndrome but as I don't have an iPad or iPhone I am curious as to what exactly the device offers. In what ways can it enhance speech articulation and language? Is there a monthly fee to use an iPad the way there is on an iPhone? Are applications expensive? Thank you very much to anyone able to answer for me. All the best to the entrants and providers! Laura

And so is your answer, hope you were able to find your way over here to get it.

Your question is fairly vast. I'm not sure I can answer it very WELL, but I will give it my best shot. I will preface it by saying one thing I have learned from this experience is every child is different, so one's mileage from The iPad Experience varies.

That being said, it never hurts to investigate ANY option for communicating with your kid, if you can get access to it, right?

Let’s break down the question.

I am curious as to what exactly the device offers. In what ways can it enhance speech articulation and language?

A lot. In fact, as far as applications go, the sky is the limit as far as possibilities. There are some that are simple, some that are very intricate. Some that will just help with getting a child to integrate with the device, ala making cool lines and images on screen, others that offer really intense learning. All depends on where you and your child are in the process of development. And like I said, it does vary.

Example, one of the Recipients from Mission One was farther ahead in development, though still delayed mind you, I’m not sugar coating anything here, but she, with this technology, zipped through learning ABC’s in a matter of days. And she struggled with it previously.

Another of the Recipients was in a whole different ballpark. His delays are a bit more on the severe side, so while he isn’t really using the iPad yet for any kind of sophisticated learning, it is providing something for him...INTERACTION. Something that, due to his disability, he had not been able to do previously in a fun way with anything.

One of his parents wrote about how overjoyed he was by this because for years he had never seen his son even PLAY with a toy because of his disability, and for the first time his son was interacting with something and HAVING FUN. It was monumental in his life. For both of them I think. So while each experience was very, very different, the one thing that binds them both is opportunity for growth, for change.

And there is one reason for this, and I am no expert, but my understanding is this…it is because of the touch-screen technology.

There is some…blockage, some mental barrier that makes it difficult for any mind, particularly one that struggles with disability, to make a connection between what is seen on a monitor and the manipulation of a mouse and a keyboard. Again, this is just my basic understanding, I am by no means an expert, I am just learning myself, although I may actually do an about face and start studying this kind of thing more if you can believe it, because I may want to start doing Speech Therapy now that I am going to have to switch careers.

Anyway…the Touch Screen eliminates this barrier, and for some reason, it makes sense to the human brain, and especially to one that struggles with disability. And why wouldn’t it? You point. Your finger moves this. Your finger moves that.

It seems a reasonable explanation to me.

Is there a monthly fee to use an iPad the way there is on an iPhone?

Not necessarily. But it depends on how you intend to use it. There are options with an iPad, but not on the iPads that we are giving away on the Mission: iPossible! website. The ones we give away do NOT have 3G capability. They only have Wi-Fi capability.

I hope I am not insulting your intelligence by over-simplifying the explanation, but I will break it down for those not in the know. Wi-Fi essentially means this. You have your iPad. You are sitting in a Coffee Shop or your Home and a Wireless Network is being used. If you have a password to that network you can access the Internet. That’s Wi-Fi. It means a router is somewhere nearby that your machine will jack into wirelessly, but the ROUTER is accessing satellites in space or nearby towers that are.

This carries with it no monthly fee. Nice, right?

3G is when the iPad itself is acting as the router and IT is accessing the satellite in space or the towers, and you can be sitting in a park or at the football game or at Grandma’s House (who has a black and white TV and no Internet OR cable) or in the car and access the Internet anytime, anywhere. Essentially, it is a gigantic cell phone that you probably can even use to talk on (via Skype I’ll bet).

This carries with it a monthly fee, just like a cell phone does.

But those kinds of iPads are not the kind of iPads we are giving out. We are only giving out the Wi-Fi versions.

Are applications expensive?

Some are dirt cheap and some are absolutely free.

Some are very, very pricey.

There are some websites that specialize in applications for Special Needs. I know of one, called Apps for Children with Special Needs, and there is another good one as well but the name escapes me right now, I am sure there is a parent here who can chime in with the web address.

Again, mileage varies on apps. You don’t need to go with Prolque2Go, the expensive ‘gold standard’ in communication right now, right away, you can ease into apps as you familiarize yourself and your child with the device and find out what works and does not work for you.

And, I do know that the A4CWSN site often runs free specials on apps, and is you join Facebook groups and clubs people are always announcing specials and sales. Community is everything when it comes to this stuff. People are always helping people.

One such Facebook group is called Buddy Cruise, a Non-Profit organization where the parents of Joseph, another one of the Mission One Recipients, are involved. Pamela, Joseph's Mom, just let me know about an Apps giveaway day that their Facebook page will be hosting that is, I believe, in partnership with Gary James A4CWSN site (you'll have to correct me if I have that wrong, Pamela) on December 23rd, all day.

So that's ANOTHER resource to join up with and be a part of.

And the Bloggers are always sharing.

I know Danielle blogs ALL THE TIME about Apps she is using with her son Trevor on Happy Being Trevy, and that’s just the one that sprang to mind first...there are many, many more...and all it takes is spending an afternoon web surfing to find source after source after source.

You keep what you like, drop what you don’t, and you find your niche. Sorta like Life.

Hope that answers your questions. Probably TMI, but hey...that's me, in case you hadn't figured that part out by now. :)



  1. I think this is one of the websites you mentioned:

    Thanks again for all that you are doing!

  2. Silly me - all I had to do was click on your link... I must pay attention more... lol.

  3. I really appreciate all your time and efforts to answer my questions. Thank you to you and the people who have worked and donated generously to help our special kids.

  4. Nice job on answering all of Laura's questions. Speech Therapist eh? I bet you would be great at it and also enjoy it tremendously. We absolutely love Zac's speech therapist and she uses an iPad for Zac as well as personally. They are great tools.

  5. If you're in a hurry and just want to get right on with the apps trolling:

    I do like to keep a running tally of apps we're using. Most of the apps I recommend are freebies too. :)


  6. ps. THE best speech/articulation app I've run across is Articulation Station. You can download one sound for free to try it out. Each sound costs $4.99ish after that. It's so awesome - I'm tempted to just buy the whole kit & kaboodle. And I don't part with mulah easy.

    Ok...back to mommy-hood. Just heard a HUGE crash in the school/therapy room. I'm sure that'll be nuthin' but fun...


  7. Very well answered Ken.

    Try not to beat yourself up too much about the number of entries. Two families are going to receive important, life changing tools that need them because of your efforts. Sure you could have shouted louder and farther but that's the beauty of structuring the project into missions. There will be more (forgive the cliche) should you choose to accept them.

    Jeez man, pat yourself on the back every once and again.

    Oh, and a Tom Brady pic just because ... Nice.


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