Tip of the Week: Use Technology to Promote Social Interactions Between You and Your Child

Last month I had the privilege to speak in New Jersey at the 2014 Statewide Conference for Fathers of Children with Special Needs. I love the opportunity to speak with parents, and this conference allowed for lots of small group discussion that centered on the individual needs of each of the families represented there.

My focus was on utilizing technology, and one of the fathers said, “You know, I see what you’re saying about how I can use the iPad to increase social interaction, but my son won’t do that with me. When I try to work with him on the iPad, he just wants to go to Temple Run. He won’t play with it the same way he does with his teachers.” This question highlights the differences between the home environment and other environments. This is a common problem that parents face, not because they’re doing anything wrong, but because they have a different relationship with the child than the teachers do.

Go back to when you were in middle school. Imagine that you’re at home with your parents, you’re in your room engaged in one of your favorite activities, and your mother comes in and says, “Let’s watch a movie about how the solar system was created.” It is highly unlikely that you are going to leap at that opportunity. At home, you like to have your own space and free time, you have lots of choices for what you can do, and there are options that are more motivating than watching that movie.

Now think of the exact same situation, except you’re in your middle school science classroom and the teacher says, “Let’s watch a movie about how the solar system was created.” You never get to watch movies in that science class, you usually have to take notes and worry about when the teacher might call on you to answer a difficult question. It is much more likely that you are going to want to watch a movie in this scenario. Compared to the options you usually have during science class, watching this movie is highly motivating.

The same thing happens at home when you try to introduce an educational or challenging activity, and for learners with special needs, an activity we think of as fun may in fact be highly challenging. It’s important to acknowledge that parents are working with the child in a different environment so that we can create strategies that are feasible for creating success in the home. There are some things you can do to make it a bit easier on yourself when introducing iPad or tablet activities.

My biggest tip is to offer choices. For example, instead of saying “Let’s play on the iPad,” say, “Do you want to play Animal Race on the iPad or go outside and jump on the trampoline together?” This way, you’re labeling a specific app instead of providing free access and you’re creating an opportunity for interaction no matter what the child chooses.

My second tip is to utilize built-in accessibility tools. Use Guided Access to lock the app. This way, the choice really is to just play that app or select the other option presented. If the child selects the other option, that’s fine! You can let them know when they have free time on the iPad and when they only have the option of playing with a particular app. You can also limit the amount of time they play quite easily by going to your “Clock” app on the iPad or iPhone. Look at the menu of ringtones, scroll down to the bottom and select “Stop Playing.” Set the time, and when time is up, whatever app your child is playing with will automatically close. If you have a passcode set for your phone, then the passcode has to be typed in before access to the app is available again.

Some learners also respond very well to visual cues to signal when they have free time on the iPad versus structured time. This can be accomplished by changing the color of the iPad cover (my students know that the “orange iPad” is for structured time) or by placing a reusable sticker on the edge of the screen.

My final tip is to consider motivation. There are apps out there that I think are great, but I have to start with what my particular learner will be interested in and build from there. Find apps that have a characteristic that should appeal to your learner, such as specific cartoon characters, animals, or music.

Using these simple tips can provide some success in using technology to promote social interaction between you and your child, or between your child and his/her siblings and peers. If you’ve used other strategies successfully, please share them with us on Facebook.

New Yorkers: Are you available for an app-testing play date with Tiggly this Wednesday?

The folks at Tiggly are hosting an app-testing playdate for New York families with children aged 3 to 6 years from 10:00am–12:00pm this Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014. The play date will allow families to check out the new learning games and toys in development by Tiggly. In return, families will receive goodie bags and a chance to enroll in their Playdate Loyalty Program.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to attend the Playdate this Wednesday. Send an email to kate@tiggly.com to register and get more information on location and directions.

Tiggly Shapes combines the essential educational benefits of physical play with the learning potential and fun of the iPad. This simple set of four geometric shapes interacts with three free apps to create an ideal learning environment for children. 

Tiggly Shapes melds the best of what the digital world has to offer with the developmental importance of manipulative play in toddlers and preschoolers. Seventy years of academic research has demonstrated that manipulating physical objects is essential to early childhood development. Tiggly enables parents to bring this critical component of early learning to the “digital sandbox” today’s kids inhabit. The product consists of a simple triangle, circle, square, and star that become interactive when used with Tiggly Apps to create a robust learning experience.

Pick of the Week: Tiggly Shapes (with Free Shipping!)

We’re really excited to share Tiggly Shapes with you: the first interactive iPad toy designed for toddlers. You have to see it to believe how cool and versatile this new product is.

Tiggly Shapes combines the essential educational benefits of physical play with the learning potential and fun of the iPad. This simple set of four geometric shapes interacts with three free apps to create an ideal learning environment for children. Tiggly Shapes melds the best of what the digital world has to offer with the developmental importance of manipulative play in toddlers and preschoolers.

Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst Sam Blanco just put together a review for Tiggly and how she uses it with her students. Read it in full here.

This week only, we’re offering FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING on Tiggly Shapes. Just enter the Promo Code TIGGLY at checkout and simply select FREE UPS or USPS Shipping. This makes a perfect holiday gift for the child in your life.

Seventy years of academic research has demonstrated that manipulating physical objects is essential to early childhood development. Tiggly enables parents to bring this critical component of early learning to the “digital sandbox” today’s kids inhabit. The product consists of a simple triangle, circle, square, and star that become interactive when used with the three Tiggly apps to create a robust learning experience.

Tiggly Shapes and apps are designed for children ages 18 months to 4 years old.

The Apps, available for free on iTunes, are:

Tiggly Safari
Use the shapes to construct friendly and adorable animals for the jungle, farm and sea.

Tiggly Safari Screenshot Learn basic shapes with Tiggly Safari!

 

 

 

 

 

Tiggly Stamp
This app has a great voice record and camera option that allows you to create an image, tell a story and record it. Use the shapes in this app to build seasonally-themed scenes using everything from jack-o’-lanterns to igloos.

Create animals, fruit, and other characters with Tiggly Shapes.Create a story with Tiggly Shapes and Stamps!

 

 

 

 

 

Tiggly Draw
Channel your inner artist and use the tablet as a blank canvas to create your masterpiece.

Tiggly Draw Screenshot

Exercise creativity by taking and saving photos!

 

 

 

 

 

Remember, this week only, get free domestic shipping on your order of Tiggly Shapes when you enter in the promo code TIGGLY at checkout!

**Offer expires 12/17/13 at 11:59pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces in the promo code at checkout!

Tip of the Week: Use Your Smartphone as a Photo Journal

Your smartphone just may be an untapped resource in working on skills with your learner. There are several apps out there that allow you to record audio over photos or type text over photos, and many of them are free.

OurTriptoTheZoo
While there are many similar apps out there, I prefer the app Over for adding text to photos because it’s easy to use, offers a variety of fonts, and allows you to move the text to different parts of the pictures ($1.99 in the iTunes store).

 

For adding audio to videos or photos, I love Shuttersong (free in the iTunes store). This video illustrates how easy it is to use.

 

You can use these apps to help your learner with a variety of communication and cognitive skills.

Skills:

  • The apps can be used to help your learner identify people who were engaged in the activity with you. For example, if you take a trip to a petting zoo, you can take photos of the people who went with you. Depending on the level of your learner, this could involve naming the person pictured, discussing what animals were that person’s favorite, or describing things that person did or felt during the trip.
  • Apps can also be used to allow your learner to write or record a statement describing what happened. This can be done in the moment or later for the learner to practice recall.
  • You can print the pictures or save them to a document on your computer or tablet. Your learner can then put them in sequential order and tell you about his/her day.
  • If the learner is working on recall skills with other teachers/adults, you can provide the images to them so they can provide prompts to your learner as needed.

Benefits:

  • Allows you to provide visual prompts for your learner to aid in recalling recent events.
  • If your learners is highly motivated by using the cell phone, this can be a great way to get him/her involved in conversation related to activities you’ve participated in as a family or class.
  • It provides a functional use of the smartphone for your learner.

 

 

 

New App for Teaching Language to Children with Autism is Now Available!

 New York, NY, March 5, 2012 – Different Roads to Learning, Inc., a global retailer of educational products for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities, today announced the launch of Tell Me About It! Learning Language by Receptive Function, Feature & Category, an iPhone/iPad app for developing early language skills.

This app uses Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a systematic teaching approach that involves breaking down skills into small, easy-to-learn steps. ABA is the only evidence-based effective intervention treatment for Autism endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Surgeon General.  The Tell Me About It! App is now available for $9.99 at itunes.

“A new wave of educational apps has been on the rise since the iPad first launched; now, they are more efficient and visually stimulating than ever. These apps are especially pertinent in the early education of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We are pleased to develop the Tell Me About It! App, which covers the basic foundations of language for children diagnosed with Autism. Our Tell Me About It! App for the iPhone and iPad allows parents and professionals to apply ABA in any setting,” said Julie Azuma, CEO of Different Roads to Learning, Inc., which she founded in 1995 after her daughter was diagnosed with Autism.

“Mimicking an actual one-on-one instructional session with a therapist, the app utilizes Discrete Trial Teaching, a method of teaching students with Autism and other language or developmental delays by breaking skills into the smallest possible steps, teaching each step intensively until its mastered, providing repetition, prompting incorrect responses, and using positive reinforcement. It’s like having a personal tutor at your fingertips,” said Abigail Schlaifer, VP Sales & Marketing.  She added, “Teachers, parents, and psychologists can delve into the Teacher’s Console to control the difficulty settings for each student, and will appreciate the Student Report Card, which displays data for each student with an option to email results.”

About the Development of the Tell Me About It! App

The concept for this app was developed by Stacy Asay, LMSW, and Abigail Schlaifer for Different Roads to Learning and created by Infusion, which combines expert software engineering with appealing user experiences.

Different Roads to Learning was one of ten small businesses selected for the CEO-UBS Small Business Advisory Program, a philanthropic partnership between UBS Wealth Management Americas and the William J. Clinton Foundation. As a participant in the Program’s New York Metro Area pilot, Different Roads to Learning received six months of pro-bono strategic financial and business advice from a UBS Financial Advisor and a dedicated client. The app is a product of this mentorship program. For more information, visit itunes.

Here are the reviews on the app:

 

About Different Roads to Learning

Founded 17 years ago by the mother of a child diagnosed with Autism, Different Roads to Learning understands and embraces the unique needs of every child on the spectrum and strives to enable parents and professionals to help children grow to their full potential by offering over 500 of the most progressive and carefully researched quality products in support of the Autism Community. Visit www.difflearn.com. Read our blog.  Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

For more information, please contact:

Product: Abigail Schlaifer, (212) 604-9637 or abigail@difflearn.com

Media: Julie Huang, Kaimen Company for Different Roads to Learning, (888) 989-8808 x703 or (917) 807-0718 or julie@kaimenco.com

Tell Me About It! Sweepstakes – Win A Free Copy of Our New App!

 Different Roads to Learning is thrilled to offer you the chance to win a free copy of our latest iPhone/iPad App for teaching language to students with Autism or speech and language delays: Tell Me About It! Learning Language by Receptive Function, Feature & Category. This special offer ends on February 17, 2012 at 11:59 PM EST.

 Tell Me About It! teaches the label, category, function, and features of more than 235 language targets over 6 levels of incremental difficulty with over 1000 unique testable attributes. The presentation of each language target conforms to an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) discrete trial program, with reinforcement provided by a token economy system. Once the user collects the given number of tokens, they are rewarded with an adorable 5-10 second animation clip of the token character.

 Tell Me About It! provides a self-contained discrete trial program that error corrects and provides direct reinforcement to the student while collecting and synthesizing data for up to 10 students. There is a Student Report Card in the format of a data sheet that displays data for each student, with an option to email the results.

For complete details on our sweepstakes and to enter, click here

Currently, our new app Tell Me About It!is being sold in the iTunes store for $9.99. You have the chance to win it for free by entering our Sweepstakes!

 To learn more about Tell Me About It!, visit the store in iTunes by clicking here! 

 

Finding Good Apps for Children with Autism

It’s amazing that a whole new market of educational tools have popped up in the market for educating individuals with ASD. In the last few months, there have been so many apps for autism to choose from that it’s difficult for parents and teachers to navigate and find the ones that will work best for their particular child. There are now entire sites dedicated to showcasing various Apps and describing them in detail to help you narrow your choices. Check out today’s Gadgetwise column in the NY Times for the list of 4 sites so you can make wiser choices for your student.

People with Disabilities to Vote with iPad

The state of Oregon provided iPads to voters with disabilities who may find it difficult to use a paper ballot in Tuesday’s election. The program is being tested and if successeful, will continue in January. Read more about this inititative in the Disability Scoop.

Apps for Autism on 60 Minutes

CBS just aired an interesting segment on apps for individuals with autism and communicating with the iPad. You can watch the entire segment here:

There’s also an interesting follow-up segment interviewing teachers who feel the apps for people with autism are “overblown”:

Are you using apps with your students with ASD? If so, which ones? What do you think the value of the iPad and other tablets is to the learning needs of the autism population?

Apps for Children with Special Needs

Apps for Children with Special NeedsFor all you technophiles who are loving using the iPad with your students and children, this website – Apps for Children with Special Needs – is going to knock your socks off. They’re completely on top of all the new educational apps coming out. They list each one, explaining their features in detail and even provide a video of the app in use so you can decide if it’s right for you before shelling out the money. This is a GREAT site that we highly recommend!