The Story of iPads, Special Needs Children and A4CWSN
We’re happy to participate in A4CWSN’s Blog Hop! Please check out the other Blog Hop articles listed at the end of this post.
So much has already been covered in the previous Blog Hop posts, it’s hard to say something new….so we’ll just add another voice to the circle from a developer’s, artist’s & educator’s perspective.
Stepping back a bit…since the launch of the iPad on April 1, 2010 of last year, it has been remarkable to see the impact of the iPad on education for children, ESPECIALLY children with special needs. Nobody could have fully predicted this impact, and it is still not fully understood, but it is now a proven fact that the iPad has a tremendous potential to help many children with special needs.
An article from a special needs classroom in Arizona sums up the impact:
“Technology can be scary or dangerous to some people, but to the special needs students of Dan Hinton and the administrators at the Pima School District, it is a godsend. People are using Apple’s iPads for numerous reasons. At the Dan Hinton School and Brighter Day Preschool, the devices offer a world of opportunity and learning to its special needs students.” (Read the full article here.)
This world-opening effect has been described as near-miraculous by parents of autistic children, as described in this BlogHer article, “The iPad: A Near Miracle for My Son With Autism”:
“My son Leo’s life was transformed when a five-dollar raffle ticket turned into a brand-new iPad. I’m not exaggerating. Before the iPad, Leo’s autism made him dependent on others for entertainment, play, learning, and communication. With the iPad, Leo electrifies the air around him with independence and daily new skills.” (Read the full article here.)
And yet another example in this New York Times article, “iPad Opens World to Disabled Boy”:
“Owen, 7, does not have the strength to maneuver a computer mouse, but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before. He aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.” (Read full article here.)
There are many such real-life stories. But there is a problem: iPads are expensive, and the need is great. While not as costly as other specialized adaptive devices, an iPad still wouldn’t be considered cheap by anyone. For many families, an iPad simply isn’t in the budget. Yet, it provides the opportunity to change lives for under $1000. Something or someone was needed to bridge this gap.
Into this gap jumped the organization Apps For Children With Special Needs. A completely grassroots, parent-run organization led by a parent, Gary James, it has a mission to provide iPads directly to families of children with special needs and to provide objective app evaluations.
By the end of July, A4CWSN will have given away 20 iPads to families of special needs children.
And the movement is growing stronger. A4CWSN is now starting up a new campaign to give 50 iPads in 50 States to 50 Children with Special Needs! To learn more and support this new campaign, click here.
A blue sky thought: wouldn’t it be perfect if Apple and other sponsors were to provide grants and donations to provide these life-changing devices to families who truly need them? Perhaps that will happen someday in the near future.
More than just a website, A4CWSN provides person-to-person support through it’s very active A4CWSN Facebook Page, which is more like a live chat room since it has so much constant activity. There are also numerous apps given away every day on this Facebook Page, donated by like-minded app developers. During last month’s special App Party (a huge app giveaway event), A4CWSN gave away over 5,000 apps with the collaboration of many developers who donated promo codes. As app developers, we were thrilled and honored to participate in this app giveaway.
On a separate app-design note, as animation artists we’re very intrigued by the role cartoons can play in educating special needs children. Can cartoons help to engage and activate latent communication skills?
A program which utilizes cartoons to help autistic children understand human emotions is currently being used throughout the U.K. According to the BBC, “There are preliminary but very exciting results – even with a very short intervention, children with autism can look at faces and start picking up the relevant information.” (Read full article here.)
And, we’ve gotten feedback about our “Cat Chorus” app that it engages autistic children. While it was not planned, this is one unexpected outcome that we are very happy about, and that we’d like to develop further. One parent from the U.K. App Store wrote:
My Autistc son loves cats, and this app is perfect!!!
He loves to make them sing, THANK YOU FOR THIS APP!
As artists, we can’t tell you how heart-warming and meaningful it is to read these words! It makes all the hard work of app development worthwhile, and it inspires us to reach higher.
We’re excited to explore these new uses of cartoons, and we look forward to continuing to support the on-going efforts of A4CWSN!
- Valerie Mih and the See Here Studios team, July 5, 2011
P.S. If you’d like a chance to win some free apps, we’re currently running a special iTunes Gift Certificate Raffle – share “What Tickles You” for a chance to win! Feel free to check out the details here
And please visit these other Blog Hop articles below!