iPad opens doors

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Previously I wrote about Mr. Sensitive’s very poor letter recognition and refusal to do anything related to school work.  Anything resembling school work resulted in my kindergartener pretending to be sick (cough, cough) and dead.  It’s hard to argue with dead.  Then he’d run away at the first chance he got.  Very entertaining.  But not helpful for learning letters.

We know Mr. Sensitive is a pretty bright kid.  At a recent pediatrician’s visit Mr. Sensitive chirped, “I know about different bacteria.  I know about Salmonella, Salmonella’s really bad…”

The pediatrician stared at me quizzically.  I explained that Mr. Sensitive has been interested in viruses and bacteria this fall, and most of his focus is on bacteria.

Mr. Sensitive continued, “… you get really sick, and then you have to take antibiotics…”

With a smile the doctor announced he was leaving now, as his services were no longer needed.

Mr. Sensitive gestured wildly with his arms, “… and Salmonella move like this, really fast…”

In our home we do not own a television.  We do own a couple computers, so Youtube and Netflix are our entertainment standbys.  Earlier this fall Mr. Sensitive and I spent a couple hours looking at images of bacteria and viruses and videos about them.  He loved the public health videos about killing germs by washing his hands – waging war with soap suds.  So discussions about viruses and bacteria and how they can make you sick have been part of our conversations since.

Just the other night Mr. Sensitive and I were watching a movie and he said, “Bacteria can give make you sick.  You can get a cold from bacteria.”

Without thinking I replied, “Actually no, it’s a virus that causes a cold.  It looks something like bacteria, but is different.”  (See, I’ve learned from this too.)

Luckily Mr. Sensitive was tired so we did not get into a discussion about the differences between viruses and bacteria.  I hope I have time to check Wikipedia before he asks me.

So I have a kindergartener who is well behind letter recognition expectations for his age who happily discusses treatment of Salmonella-related illnesses with his pediatrician.

Groan.

This also means that said smart kindergartener is acutely aware that he does not see the letters that most kids in his class do.  I wrote about our recent experiences in Kindergarten Challenges, how Mr. Sensitive started wetting the bed and developed a weird eye tic in starting his second year of kindergarten.  We tried to reduce the stressors we could and do not do his reading homework.  The eye tic and bed wetting have been reduced.  (Although Mr. Sensitive still blinks frantically when he’s getting in trouble.)

So the kid that can’t read is so stressed about not reading that he can’t learn to read.

Double groan.

So how can we get him to even look at a letter without developing further eye tics, sleepwalking or bedwetting habits?

After watching Mr. Sensitive navigate our laptops to watch movies and ‘typing’ on our laptops and phones, we knew technology was our solution.  Hubby and I broke down and bought Mr. Sensitive an iPad, with a really heavy duty case.

With paper and pencil Mr. Sensitive was refusing to trace patterns.  His fine motor ability is quite poor and he knows it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to.  There are too many steps and stressors involved – sequential memory, visual integration, fine motor affecting pencil grip and pencil movement, add a heap of anxiety and you have shut down.

Wow! Look at him copy designs on the iPad.  He taps and swipes his way through all kinds of designs.

Mr. Sensitive was refusing to do anything with visual scanning activities.  Try to find a picture in an array of similar items?  Forget it.  It was not rewarding and visually overwhelming.  He’d give up in seconds.

Wow! Look at him find those monsters on the iPad.  Listen to them roar!  Mr. Sensitive would keep searching just to make those monsters roar.  I was amazed to see that he could actually do the visual scanning activity – who knew he could even do this?

Memory games to promote spatial awareness?  Give Mr. Sensitive bunch of cards to sort through and he tosses them all over.  He gives up instantly and avoids heavily.

Wow!  Look at him win that memory game on the iPad.  Spooky skeletons, cool animation and sound make the game so much more fun.  I had no idea he could even do this kind of activity – and he did a great job.

All of the pre-reading activities that Mr. Sensitive had been avoiding through fake illness and death are entertaining and accessible to him on the iPad.  There are very little fine motor requirements, unlike gripping a pencil and laboriously tracing a letter.  The rewards are very high – roaring monsters, cool animation and the novelty of using the iPad foster a can-do attitude.  Anxiety is reduced quickly as this new ‘toy’ bears no resemblance to a teacher pointing at a letter saying, ‘Focus!’

In short, he is successful because he has experienced success.

Disclaimer:

I’m sure you know I was in no way compensated for writing about the iPad and Apple really has no idea I even exist, never mind write about them.  I just wanted to share my son’s story.

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About Angela

Super-powered, Special Ed teacher and special needs mama to FOUR (!) children with an assortment of special needs; including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Prader Willi Syndrome. Our family features a heavy dose of good ol' ADHD). I blog about our halfpastnormal life.
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