Working the iPad: Stories2Learn and TapSpeakButton
First, a bus update.
Still waiting to hear about a bus to take Charlie home.
Yes, contacting the transportation department and the special ed director are on the Wednesday to-do list.
On the longer term list has been, as I've from time to time mentioned, trying Charlie on some sort of augmentative communication device. We brought this up at the last IEP meeting back in February and it was mentioned that an augmentative communication evaluation would have to be done for Charlie by someone who knows what she or he is doing and that someone (our school district) would have to pay for the eval and that's about where the whole business has stalled, I mean, stopped, I mean—
Enter the iPad.
Because if Mohammed won't come to the mountain, then the mountain better get motoring or at least, mobile digital device-ing, right?
So far, the apps Stories2Learn and TapSpeakButton seen to have some good potential for Charlie as far as prompting him to speak without us having to say for the umpteenth time 'say' and thereby helping him to communicate, especially at troublesome transition moments. Stories2Learn is billed as a program to help create social stories and I did make one about Charlie going back to school. We went over it twice before Charlie started school and I think I put in too much detail about dates and activities and so forth. I could see that Charlie could easily activate the iPad's touch screen—he has long wispy fingers and is still not able to use a trackpad on a laptop, and is lukewarm about the computer mouse.
It is very easy to upload images, type in a short phrase, and record video with Stories2Learn. So I made a 'story' called 'I like' and made 'pages' with photos of ketchup, bike-riding, using the computer, spring rolls, etc.. I've shown it to Charlie as a sort of prompt for him to talk about things he likes. Also, we've twice been in the car and i've turned on the 'I like' story to offer Charlie some choices of what he might like. Seeing the image on the iPad screen all crisp and clear and being able, at the tap of a finger, to hear a recording (of me) saying whatever is in the image has given Charlie some reassurance that he'll soon get what he'd like.
TapSpeakButton makes it easy as pie to record short phrases. I can then select from these and then put the TapSpeakButton on the iPad screen. This 'button' is big and simple– a circle in red, blue, green, or yellow—a number of the apps for kids I've been looking through are a bit 'bells and whistle'-ish with cute animal animations, cheery singsong songs, and the like: Charlie has a lot of 'delays,' can't really read, etc., but those sorts of details can really distract him. The very simple format of TapSpeakButton is the right thing for him. He taps the big colored button, hears a phrase ('I want to go somewhere,' 'I don't want to do that'–things I intuit he is expressing with repeated no's or I want's), repeats it; over time, I'm hoping he might add some of these phrases to his repertoire.
Charlie is a long way from using the iPad independently. He doesn't see it as the 'hot new device' and is still getting used to using it. The YouTube interface —-Charlie loves to watch video clips of certain shows—looks very different from what it does on a computer Internet browser, so he is wary of it.
'He'll adapt,' Jim said yesterday evening after a bit of a stressful techno moment in which I was working both the iPad and the laptop with Charlie waiting, puzzled and patient, to see a video.
Indeed Charlie will. Just a few months ago we were wondering how he would do riding a bigger, adult-size bike and now he's become Mr. Gotta Do My 20+ Miles A Day.
And I'm thinking Charlie should ride the bus home all right, should we ever get the bus set up!