I'm thinking of joining AA... no, not Alcoholics Anonymous but Apple Anonymous! At last count in this house we had three iPhones, an iTouch and the latest addition to our family is the iPad. We love our technology in this household and if it was a choice of buying new clothes (I hate clothes shopping) or even buying nice food, a new gadget will win hands down EVERY time! They are not cheap by any means but I'd stake that anyone who has one of these iOS will understand exactly where I'm coming from. Thankfully, now that most mobile operators are supplying them, its easy enough to get your hands on a free phone these days and just watch your usage to keep the cost of your monthly bill down.
I'm sure there are doubters out there though that still believe that giving your child a piece of technology is akin to an electronic babysitter. Where sitting your child in front of a tv for hours a day watching cartoons isn't going to be hugely beneficial to them, there are huge advantages to having a device such as an iTouch. Munchkin has been using the apps on my phone for a couple of years now and I marvel at the ease she uses them. When we started, we used ABA Flashcards from Kindergarten as they were free for World Autism Day a couple of years ago (and incidentally are still free now) and wherever we were, she had access to them. Could you imagine lumping around boxes of cards to work while you're waiting for appointments? Eh no. There are some fantastic applications out there which are autism/speech delay specific. One that I saw grow from an idea to an award winning one is of course Grace App. A fantastic communication app that helps not only children with Autism, but any child/adult with speech delay. There are countless numbers of people using this app now in place of or in conjunction with PECS. Once again, which is easier to carry around for portability? A large bulky folder full of laminated and velcroed pictures, or a device that any child would be seen carrying?
I could go on and on about the vast quantity of quality applications that are both fun and educational for the child to use but we'll be here all year... I have over 100 books stored on our devices for Munchkin to have at her fingertips. I "attended" an App Party on Facebook recently where developers gave away apps or discounted them heavily so we have dozens of fabulous educational apps now loaded up and ready to use. A special mention to two iPad apps that Munchkin loves now has to go to "How are You?" which is an interactive, brightly colourful book app that teaches about feelings and emotions through their stories, and "Dexteria", a wonderful app that was developed by occupational therapists and helps improve fine motor skills through, tapping, pinching and the more advanced "write it" part of the program.
On a social level, giving your child an iOS is not going to stop them interacting with other children. Look at any child with one in their hand and there's usually another one looking at what they're doing, sharing in the experience and comparing what they have on their own device. It gives them a common interest that they can talk about. Of course they're going to play games on it to but hey, that's helping hand-eye coordination right?
If you do decide to take the plunge and get one of these iOS, some advice I would give you is to get a good protective cover! Munchkin has broken her screen twice on the iTouch but thanks to product replacement cover have managed to get new ones. My friend Lisa recommended the Otterbox Covers as has extensive experience with kids dropping or throwing the phones when she brings them into schools to train with Grace App. She recently had a stand at the Autism Show in London and demonstrated frequently how well the covers work by throwing her own phone on the ground. I now have an Otterbox Reflex cover on my new phone and my iPad now sports a very robust Defender case. Both incidentally have hit the ground since and survived to tell the tale so I'm happy (no I didn't test them Lisas way, Munchkin dropped them!)