Using iPad timers for children with autism

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Using iPads interactively (the theme of this blog) is all very well but we often find that children are often more than happy to play with the iPad on their own without any adult interference.

I’ve ofteasd timern used iPad timer apps at school with children who have autism as they often benefit from clear visual and sound prompts to help them understand what is expected of them. It has been helpful to give a warning of when I plan to use the iPad with them and when they are allowed to use it on their own.

An iPad based signal can be more effective than any verbal or other visual warnings when a child is already focused on the iPad itself. It also works wonders when trying to encourage children to take turns sharing the iPad with each other.

timer sandMy favourites are ASD timer and Sand Timer (both free). You can set for any period of minutes/seconds and there is a noise when time is up (regardless of which app you are using at the time). Both of the apps above allow you to choose the ‘time up’ noise from a range of bleeps and tunes.

The iPad timer doesn’t just need to be a timer for iPad activities. You could also use it as a visual for other activities at home and at school e.g. ‘time for brushing teeth’ or ‘time until play has finished’.

Watching the clock hand moving round or the sand filtering down can help a child understand what is next in a concrete and visual way. This can be much more effective than saying “in 5 minutes” to a child who has difficulty understanding what that means.

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Using My PlayHome for talking about pictures

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playhomeI love this app. Since discovering it a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been using it with a number of children at preschool. It has a range of different scenes, each with moveable characters and objects and decent sound effects e.g. in the kitchen scene you can open cupboards, turn taps on and off and put pizza in the oven. And it works on a wider range of vocabulary than I can ever quite achieve by getting a box of toys together.

The free version of the app (My PlayHome Lite) has two scenes which give you plenty to work with. You can, however, upgrade it for £2.49 to upload lots more scenes and there’s also a shops version for £1.49 which I haven’t tried.

Suggestions for using at home:

  • Tell your child that you are going to create a story together.
  • Choose a scene (e.g.  the kitchen scene) and agree on names for the characters (Mummy, Daddy etc. often works better than actual names depending on your child’s level of language).
  • Make a character do an action and talk about what is happening e.g. “The Mummy opened the fridge”. “She poured a glass of juice”. “She drank the juice”. You can make the actions as complex or simple as you like.
  • Ask your child to tell you what happens next and then carry out the action.
  • Swap roles and tell your child what happens next. By doing this, your child has a chance to listen and follow instructions as well as talking about what is happening.

Rapping with the iPad to develop vocabulary skills

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imageAutorap (a free app) is a highly motivating tool for using language with primary and secondary aged children. Essentially, the child records a short spoken phrase which then generates an automatic rap.

It could be used at school or home to consolidate vocabulary or grammatical forms, or simply to practise structuring short phrases. The free version gives you unlimited use of one tune but you need to upgrade if you want to use any others.

Using at school:  In a classroom group, present a choice of vocabulary words that you have been working on. Each child takes turns to make it into a short phrase, records the phrase and plays it back to the group.

Using at home: Give your child any two words e.g. “train” and “egg” and challenge them to make up a phrase with both words in it before turning it into a rap. Encourage them to think of two words to give you – there’s no need for your phrases to make perfect sense but enjoy playing with the words and structuring sentences together.