Last Christmas I bought my daughter an iPad and if I was to sum up our experience to date it would be this: I don’t know how we lived without it. We both love the thing! Katie immediately began using it on a daily basis and it’s been amazing to watch her learn.
As I reported back in January, at first Katie simply pushed every button not really paying attention to what she was doing. It was all about speed. Then she began to slow down and pay more attention. She mastered her favorite game and moved on to others. I downloaded some educational apps and she mastered those too. It was incredible to watch how quickly she learned when given material that didn’t require a verbal response.
One day this past spring, my friend Barb—a retired special ed teacher and Katie’s amazing reading tutor—stopped by. I commented that I was doing something as a parent that I swore I would never do: letting Katie play video games. We both watched Katie for awhile as she played. Barb said, “Don’t be ashamed of that. Look how long she’s focusing. She’s building her attention span.”
I will admit that at the time I though Barb was merely being nice, trying to rationalize my single parent behavior. But a few weeks ago my mom asked if Katie could watch a movie in the theater. It was hot and she was looking for an activity she could do with my niece and nephew. I said I wasn’t sure. Katie and I had done sensory-friendly movies (movies shown at half-volume without previews and some of the lights left on) with varying degrees of success. But it had been a few years since we tried it. Given her recent success at the party, I wondered if it was now something she could do and enjoy.
As luck would have it, a few days later Katie asked to watch Shrek. It was too hot to play outside and she was bored. We took the DVD upstairs and she settled herself on my bed, directly below the ceiling fan, and I started the movie. Curious to see how she did, I hung out with her (the kid is no dummy—my bed is the coolest spot when the house is hot) and did some work on—you guessed it—the iPad. And you know what? She watched the whole movie, laughing at the funny parts and repeating her favorite lines. Over the next few days I repeated the the test, and each time she watched it all.
We moved on to Shrek 2 with the same results. Overjoyed, her therapist Brad (we lost the amazing and beloved Juan at the end of May) then watched the movie with her and quizzed her on emotions and social comprehension. He also asked nonstop questions to help her gain conversational skills. Who knew Shrek could be used in so many ways?
Katie still has to swing before and after a movie (and sometimes once in the middle) but I’m thrilled to see how dramatically her ability to focus and attend has improved. Do we owe this to the iPad? I think so. It certainly sped things up. I’m curious to see what happens next on our iPad adventure.
Until next time,