Since last summer, tablets have been a part of my son’s life. First a TouchPad at our home and then an iPad at his mother’s were introduced with great expectations. Not just a little hope was heaped on how these devices would open up Daniel’s communication and provide a bridge between his world and ours.
The devices have been a big help in encouraging requests, supporting vocab development, reinforcing positive behaviours and assisting in self-regulation.
A drawback is that the TouchPad has, ahem, limited apps and the iPad doesn’t travel with the kids, which means I can’t work with Daniel and his familiar apps when he and his sister are with me.
It is pretty clear that I will have to get an iPad here to provide Daniel with a fairly seamless experience with regard to apps that are a benefit to developing language, behaviour and social skills.
In the meantime, Daniel and Rachel have access to the TouchPad and a computer which they can both use in our home. Mostly they use it to access youtube, starfall, tvokids and to play a few basic games. I have to admit that Angry Birds is one of those games.
A few things disturb me about the current set-up. The tablet has become Daniel’s, but I didn’t foresee it that way. Turn-taking is a challenge with the tablet. It seems every weekend we have to work on this and we seem to have the same starting point on Saturday mornings every two weeks. It has an impact on Rachel who gets less time with it and calls it Daniel’s. That’s certainly not what I intended and yet it is the reality.
I think constantly about how Daniel’s special needs affect Rachel. The great balancing act is making sure that Rachel develops as a confident child with strong self-esteem while also supporting Daniel to do the same thing. I feel all too often that I am doing a poorer job with Rachel than with Daniel.
Another issue about the present set-up is that I envisioned that a tablet would help Daniel to communicate his needs. The TouchPad has obvious limitations, but there are a lot of drawing and writing apps available like Just Draw where Daniel can write. Writing words is something that Daniel does put a lot of energy into.
Despite my effort to use electronics, though, the twins each have a fairly low tech option that they still use that addresses some of my concerns.
Allow me to introduce you to the most magical of tablets–the Doodle Pro.
I can’t remember how old the twins were when the Doodle Pro’s arrived under the Christmas tree, but there were two: a green one and a purple one. They seemed perfect for drawing and ideal for the kids to use if we had to drive anywhere.
The thing is very simple. A pen with a magnet allows one to write. There are four shapes that can be blotted on the board or dragged across to make thick lines. There is a bar under the surface to wipe the metal filings away, leaving a blank slate ready for the kids to start over again.
Each twin had their own way of using it initially. Daniel preferred to cover the whole screen and Rachel used hers to draw pictures.
Over time the Doodle Pro has provided a window for seeing what animates Daniel. The first big moment came when someone drew a fish and Daniel wrote the word for it. Absolutely amazing. I was thrilled to write about it in another post. He uses it to write his favourite movie titles and credits. He can be relied on to write about Disney and Pixar productions.
The Doodle Pros were used infrequently in the first six months after the move. That changed over March Break. Having a few days with just Daniel gave us a lot of time to work with it again. Suddenly, he was able to write words of things he wanted. It became a new way to request.
Since then, they make the trip back and forth for kid weekends. We have used it for redirection at the public library when Daniel has become agitated about it not being his turn at one of the computers or when all the train sets have been loaned out.
In fact, the Doodle Pro has succeeded at the library where the TouchPad failed.
I am reassured that Rachel has one and she can use hers whenever she wants or needs to. In the long car drive she will either pull out her gigantic encyclopedia of superheroes or her Doodle Pro.
This past Christmas I thought they needed a more exciting and newer alternative in the form of a pad that uses a light pen to draw on a photosensitive pad. They were popular for several weeks and then were used less and less as the days became longer. That coincided with the renewed interest in the Doodle Pro.
Daniel’s abilities and interests have broadened as a result of starting Grade 1 and IBI. The images he creates since beginning those programs reflect the work he is doing. Outside of meetings with his teacher or therapy team, the only time I see his progress is on weekends or holidays and the Doodle Pro gives me a glimpse of what is important to him.
The magnetic slate helps to calm him when he hears other children cry and helps him deal with other stressful situations.
Two Doodle Pro’s, two kids, zero apps, one relieved dad.