In a previous post, l shared how our daughter Beth learned to work the iPad (See http://wp.me/p2OomI-bo). Finally, she was able to poke and drag, and could, in theory, use a variety of preschool apps. There are some great preschool apps out there, and Preschool EduKitty (1) is notable for its custom settings (where the number of items and types of activities can be chosen by the parent) and the very motivating reward of a kitty sliding down the slide saying “weeeeee.”
After watching Beth use Preschool EduKitty and other preschool apps, it became obvious that we had one more major hurdle to clear before fully utilizing the iPad as a teaching tool: impulse control. Left on her own, this is what Beth does with a preschool app (Preschool EduKitty, 1):
As shown in the video above, Beth doesn’t listen to the directions (e.g, touch the number 3, pick the circle, etc.), and she immediately pokes at all the choices on the iPad screen. She loves to hear the sounds the icons makes, so the sounds compete with the intended motivator in the program (the little kitty sliding down the slide). Also, it doesn’t take long to poke at all the icons to find the right one, so she just ignores the directions and starts poking.
I would guess this is a common problem, not just for kids like Beth who have autism or other special needs, but for all young children using education apps on the iPad. But I have not found a preschool app that includes settings and features that help Beth listen to the directions before poking. So, as a work-around, I tried the following blocking methods to help my daughter with her impulse control.
Methods of Blocking the iPad
Using my hands. First I tried telling Beth to wait and blocked access to the screen by putting my hands in front of hers. This forced her to wait and listen to the directions, and many times she got the answers right on the first poke. But this method was not ideal, because she got very frustrated when I blocked her and she reached around my hands to poke at the screen.
Sliding the iPad. Then I tried sliding the iPad away from Beth’s reach to make her pause before poking. That worked fairly well, but she could not study the screen easily because it was so far away.
Acrylic Block. Finally, I tried using a clear acrylic sign holder (available on Amazon in various sizes, mine is a 11 by 8 1/2 landscape sign holder) to cover the screen. I slid the acrylic sign over the iPad to prevent Beth from poking the screen until the directions were stated. Before I moved the acrylic block, I watched Beth’s eyes to make sure she studied the screen and I re-stated the directions if I felt she did not hear them. Then I slid it the acrylic block off the screen so that Beth could poke and choose an answer. After Beth poked the correct answer, I slid the acrylic sign back into place before Beth had a chance to continue poking at the screen.
Here is a demonstration of the iPad sliding technique, followed by the acrylic sign technique:
The acrylic sign block works very well as a work around. But I wish the preschool apps included features and settings that would discourage random poking and encourage listening to directions and studying the screen before poking.
The Ideal Preschool App
To manage the impulse control problem, an ideal preschool app would contain the following:
1. To discourage random poking, the choice icons would motivate children to get the right answer, and downplay the incorrect answers.
- The icon for the correct answer would have fireworks coming out of it and applause as soon as it is poked.
- The icons for the incorrect answers would disappear immediately upon selection of the icon with the correct answer (my daughter continues to try to press the icons for the incorrect answers after getting the answer right).
- An option would be provided to turn off the sound for the incorrect answers (sometimes my daughter enjoys pressing icons for the incorrect answers just to hear the sound they make).
2.When the instructions are given, the screen would pause and have a wait indicator (e.g, the screen changes its look, the icons are inactive, and a wait icon appears in the corner of the screen). This feature would help a child understand the concepts of waiting for directions and taking time to study the screen.
3. In case number 2 above does not work, the app would have an option for the parent to pause and unpause the screen manually.
4. To minimize frustration due to pausing the screen, activities that don’t require pausing the screen should be included. For example, the app could include puzzles, matching, and counting sections that allow unhindered poking/dragging.
Do you want the features and settings above within your favorite app? Then please share this post with the developer and spread the word. Do you have other ideas to manage impulse control via app design? Please comment on this post here or on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fumbling-Thru-Autism/102482513246303).
- Cubic Frog Apps (2011). Preschool EduKitty (Version 1.0) [iPad application software], https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/preschool-edukitty-fun-educational/id456520113?mt=8