At the age of four, our son began to show signs that he was falling behind developmentally. We witnessed a child who had once loved engaging with his books and coloring, to one that no longer had any interest in books and specifically avoided any kind of writing or art. Additional signs and sensory difficulties also lead us to seek out help while trying new methods on our own. One of these techniques we began using at home was the use of assistive technology.
Around his fifth birthday, we decided to purchase some kind of tablet to help foster a new kind of literacy and offer more ways to interact with books. Perhaps one of the biggest changes to his books that we had noticed was the change from thicker board books to those with typical thinner pages. Hypothesizing that this change could have created difficulty for him, we thought about how assistive technology could help him. My husband and I researched different kinds of technology, from tablets and eReaders to more child-based products, such as those developed by LeapPad. Considering our budget and our goals for our son, we settled on purchasing a Nook tablet by Barnes and Noble.
Within a few weeks, we had already purchased a number of apps as well as an array of “Read to Me” books. These books allowed for a narrator or even my own recording to be playing as he followed along with the story. Our son began to beg for more time on his Nook to listen to stories each night. Using the tablet gave him the ability to easily swipe the screen to advance to the next page instead of trying to grasp at pages, which were more difficult for him; our hypothesis was proving to be correct.
As we expanded our app collection, we began purchasing games and other preschool related apps that would allow him to write numbers and letters with just his fingers. For the first time, I saw him show an interest in drawing letters by tracing over them with his finger and drawing pictures. As he began to write some of the letters in his name with his finger, we saw him progress in his ability to also write with markers and other thicker pens that were easier for him to grasp. The assistive technology successfully provided him with a new platform that bridged the gap between his fine motor deficits and the skills that he was working on. The assistive technology piece continues to grow with him and new applications have provided even more possibilities for him to grow.