Well I wasn’t going to blog today for various reasons:
- It’s the weekend and Connor is with his Dad, so I should be doing something, like, you know, relaxing!
- I have a wedding later today. I really should be getting ready, as I am perpetually late…to everything.
- I’m tired and my brain is a bit fuzzy.
Obviously my reasons not to blog are numerous and excellent. Yet, here I am. My decision to blog today stems primarily from the fact that I spent the last hour exploring iPad apps for autism. You heard that correctly: I spent an hour of one of my few and precious child-free days, investigating materials for my child. (Can you say co-dependent? or maybe obsessed?) Oh well, it is what it is. Let’s not over-analyze, shall we?
Thanks to an article sent to me from my uncle, and several emails from my mother, I had a starting place. My first app to explore was Injini. The Injini Project is dedicated to “making learning fun”, something that many educational companies have attempted and failed at in the past. This project, and all of his apps, have been the subject of much good press over the last year. Perhaps too much good press for my taste, as I tend to grow skeptical the more something is praised. I fully expected this app to be too good to be true. I have seldom been so happy to be wrong.
This app is delightful! I can honestly say, as someone who actually enjoys learning, that I was entertained by this app and its various games. Yes, I know that I am not its target audience, but I am keenly aware of who that target audience may be: children like my son Connor. Not that Connor is a reluctant learner, yet anyways. He is only three and therefore not able to be labeled as such. However, given his autism, reluctant learner seems inevitable.
Like many children with autism, Connor is best instructed when engaged in “preferred activities”, such as trains or bubbles, etc. When he is playing with the toys or games he picks out, one can often use those as instruments of learning. For example, I will play marbles with Connor. He has a large marble run that he just adores. He’ll set the marbles through their various ramps over and over again, delighted with the outcome, though it is the same every time. So occasionally, I will use this focus to my advantage. The marbles used in the run are different colors. I ask Connor to name the color of the marble before I give it to him and he sends it down the run. This is not rocket science. It is actually very simplistic in nature, being an identify and repeat mode of learning. But it works for us.
Injini uses that same model for the games in their app:
The various games you see in the squares above ask the child to engage in preferred activities of their choosing. Each offers sound effects, a child narrator, and verbal and visual praise. While engaged in something that the child considers fun, the app stealthily educates them!
Take for example the “Balloons” option:
Various colored balloons rise from behind a hill. The avatar (that little white blob with the smile) asks you to pop the balloon of a certain color. That balloon then gives a satisfying pop, shows a sort of explosion, and drenches the blob in that particular color causing it to grow and jump. Reinforced learning and fun! Yay!
OK, so you and I might not be entertained by this for very long. But for a child like Connor, who seeks out YouTube videos of balloons falling from ceiling or dogs popping balloons, this is an ideal way to engage him while simultaneously teaching him a valuable lesson on colors.
Another wonderful attribute is the question mark you see in the upper right-hand corner. This button will give the user clues or repeat the question, helping to ward off the inevitable frustration that comes with learning something new.
Though this is only the Lite (read free) version of the app, I couldn’t be more excited. I cannot wait for Connor to open it up and try it out. Hopefully he’ll be engaged as I was (or I’ll be really embarrassed that I find preschool learning so exhilarating). If it goes as well as I’m expecting, I fully intend to purchase the full version and let you all in on the secrets the paid for app holds!
Until then, I’m going to go engage in some adult fun, like taking a long shower and drinking some wine. Don’t worry though, I’ll probably be thinking of this app the whole time because that’s just how fun I am!
(p.s. I’ll continue to review apps for autism as I explore them, so stay tuned!)