Technology Use for Children with Down Syndrome: The iPad

Several families know that we use the Apple iPad with children seen at our Center.  We are being asked what “apps” (i.e., applications) we would recommend and for what age of child.  We would like to start by saying that we have not had our iPad very long since it has only been on the market for a short time; but, we have found it to be quite useful.  Most of the children we see are quite taken by the technology.  They focus more, interact with it easily, and verbally interact with the appropriate apps.  We are quite pleased with its use as a supplement to our regular treatment session. The basic cost for the iPad is $479 Wifi 16 GB or $545 Wifi 32 GB.  Some of the apps uploads are free, but most range from $0.99 to $4.99.  Uploading children’s story books tend to be more expensive.  If you have not seen Apple’s promotion, go to their web page and view them.  Do remember they are promoting it for adults and not necessarily for children; thus, many of the applications are good but not necessarily appropriate for your child.  We will try to show you the apps we are using for our children.

Young children: Learning to Interact or for Reinforcement

We use several apps that fall in the category of early interaction.  The apps are not directly speech nor are they necessarily language oriented, but offer a fun way to have the child learn to touch and manipulate the iPad.  Under this category are Orchestra, Peekaboo Barn,  and VirtuosoOrchestra (Geni Kids) has figures that change costumes when touched. There are eight children songs (e.g., Happy birthday to you), and when the child touches each figure, they play a different musical instrument (e.g., piano, drums, horn, etc.).  Peekaboo Barn (Night & Day Studios) is an app where the child hears an animal make a sound inside the barn; then, the child touches the barn door.  The door opens and the student sees the animal. Virtuoso is a piano app where the child can touch keys and play music.  The keys are labeled A2 B2 C2, etc.  Thus, they could offer an introduction to first letters.

Young children: Beginning Writing

Several of the writing apps can help the young student learn to draw and write.  Most are simple and easy to use.  Here is a list of the apps we use:  neu.KidsDraw; Alphabet Tracing; ABC PocketPhonics LiteABC Writing; LetterWriter.

Young children: Beginning Phonics

There are many beginning phonics apps.  Some of these are free, most are $0.99 each.  The ones we use are: Letters A to Z; ABC Alphabet Phonics; ABC Sight Words; Word Families; iWrite Words liteFirst Words Deluxe is my favorite.  It has options for the child to move individual letters to form words from 3 to 8 letters long.  It has audio/phonics cues or the audio can be muted.  The visual cues can be highlighted in the word or removed.  It teaches phonics, right to left spelling, and how to sound out words.  Our students from age 4 years to 9 years use this app.

Young children: Pictures

There are several simple apps that display pictures with audio. The child can say or imitate the picture. Most of these apps have the beginning sound displayed under the picture.  A few of these apps include:  ABC Sight Words; ABC Phonics Sight Words; Letters A to Z.

Young children:  Interactive Stories

There is only one truly interactive story available on the iPad that we like for young children.  That app is called Just Me and My Dad.  It is a Little Critter interactive story where each page of the story has many hidden “hits”, where the child touches the iPad window and events happen.  The child can touch each word and it speaks the single word. Most of the other stories either read the story or if the student touches the window it will print out the word for the object touched and say the word.  For instance in Just Grandma and Me, on the first page, if the student touches the bus, the word /bus/ prints out and the audio says “bus.” Other stories we use are The Three Little Pigs; Green Eggs and Ham; Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Older children:  Interactive Stories and Writing

There are a few stories available for older students.  These we use with our 6-9 year olds.  Again the stories can be heard or the student can read them without sound.  They also have a minimal interaction to them.  Here are the ones we have found: Melvin HD; Toy Story; The Wrong Side of the Bed; Magic School Bus; Violet-Interactive Children’s Storybook.
There is another set of apps that can help the student learn to write and form words.  Some are easy like Super Why! and FirstWords Deluxe.  However a little more challenging app is Chicktionary. Here the student has to touch one of 7 chickens, each with a letter on the front, to form words from 4 to 9 letters long.  Essentially, the student has to re-arrange letters in their head to form words.

Voice Output Systems

Some iPad apps have speech outputs to record the student’s speech.  One app can record the student’s voice (i.e., QuickVoice), others convert the speech into words (i.e., SpeechieHD; or Dragon), and another converts typing into speech (i.e., Utype iTalk).  They are great motivators, teach spelling, and help practice good clear speech.
One app called Proloquo2Go (costs $189.00) contains many iconic pictures that can be used with the iPad to make a portable augmentative Voice Output system.  The pictures can be arranged into categories and different windows. The students quickly search for the category, touch the icon picture and the iPad speaks for the student.  It seems expensive, but compared to other augmentative Voice Output systems, it is relatively affordable.

Speech Practice Apps

Lingraphica has several iPhone apps that can be uploaded onto an iPad.  These are great practice apps for children learning to produce isolated sounds.  They can help identify letters to the sounds they hear.  The one we use the most is called SmallTalk Phonemes. It shows a mouth producing the sounds while hearing the sound production. Other Lingraphica apps include SmallTalk Consonant Blends, SmallTalk Letters, Numbers, Colors.
Another app, called ArtikPix, has a free sample for using flashcards and matching.  The full app cost $29.99 and includes flashcards, matching sounds, and sentence level. This price is probably a little too much for most families, but, it is worthwhile for most speech-language pathologists.

Sign Language Apps

There are several sign language apps available to help the student expand their signs.  We find these apps assist the student in reading words, in that the words are written off to the side.  The student has to read the word before viewing the sign.  When the sign is produced,  the sign is spoken while an adult manually demonstrates how to produce the sign.  The child can imitate the oral production while signing.  Some available sign apps include: Baby Sign Lite; Baby ASL HD; ASL!

Numbers and Math Apps

We use math apps to teach speech, reasoning, memory, reading, and problem solving.  There are a few apps that we have uploaded to help in number identification, one-to-one correspondence, and memory.  These apps include: Math Ready Gr 1-3Mad Math; 123 Writing; Let’s Do Math; Numbers (approach to Montessori).  The free Numbers (approach to Montessori) has many different levels, but, the full version has many more levels.  It costs only $2.99 and is well worth the price.
Of course, the list of apps discussed does not complete the entire list of possibilities.  We are always hearing from our parents and colleagues about new apps.  Please feel free to share any of your own favorite apps and we will pass them onto our families.  We end with a very popular app for our house hold cat; it is called Games for Cats.  She loves to try to catch the mouse that runs and hides across the screen.  She knows when the iPad is sitting out.  She tries to turn it on so she can play her game.  Maybe I should turn on the sign language apps and see if she can learn to sign.

2 responses to “Technology Use for Children with Down Syndrome: The iPad”

  1. Kit Hoffman

    will insurance assist with the purchase of the I Pad for a Down’s child??? and if so , how does one go about applying?

    1. ELF Talk

      Hi Kit. No, unfortunately it doesn’t look like insurance will help pay for the purchase of an iPad. You are not out of luck, though.
      Here is an article with some good tips on alternative ways to help fund an iPad purchase for your child:
      7 ways to get an ipad for your child with special needs