Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Learning Play Skills with the iPad: A Guest Post by Wonderbaby's Amber Bobnar

Amber Bobnar is mom to the sweetest and cutest little boy, Ivan. Ivan is seven years old and was born blind and multiply disabled. Ivan attends the Lower School at Perkins School for the Blind and Amber runs the website, a support and information site for parents of children who are visually impaired.

I love games. I’m not a big time gamer or anything, but give me a pack of cards or a board game and I’m in heaven.

When I was a kid I remember having to beg my parents to play dominoes or Yahtzee with me. Monopoly was pretty much a once a year treat! I swore when I had a child that I would be the kind of parent who would play games… and I secretly looked forward to it!

When my son Ivan was born blind and with multiple disabilities I have to admit that one of my first thoughts was that he would never be able to play a game. No Candy Land or Shoots & Ladders, no Go Fish or Old Maid. I was so very sad to lose that play time with him, but I knew we could play in other ways.

Ivan loves to play physical games (wrestling being at the top of the list) and any kind of sensory play is a huge hit with him. Now that Ivan is seven I realize that he is actually ready to start to learn about competitive play. Thinking about what makes a “game” competitive I figure that Ivan needs to learn three basic skills first:

·         Taking turns

·         Sharing

·         Winning!

The first two are necessary social skills… but the third? I guess it’s a good life lesson, but could be a lot harder to teach!

So my tactic has been to play with apps on the iPad. Ivan loves simple apps that make a lot of sound. He’s totally blind, so colors and pictures don’t have any meaning for him, but the immediate feedback of sound when he touches the iPad screen is highly motivating.

One of his favorite apps is iLoveFireworks. A single tap on the screen creates a small firework *boom*. A full hand on the screen creates a large *BOOM!* And a sweep of your hand across the screen makes a multiple *boom*boom*BOOM!!*

Just playing with this app has taught Ivan about cause and effect and has helped with his hand and finger control. The more he can wiggle his fingers or move his hand, the better response he gets from the app. It was clear right away that not only was this motivating for him, but he was also placing a higher value on the high output sounds. The bigger a display of fireworks he could get, the better. So I started to follow his lead and respond to his fireworks emotionally: “Oh no! That firework was so small! How disappointing!” or “YAY! That was HUGE! How wonderful!”

He picked up on my responses and this just increased his awareness that BIG was good and small was disappointing.

Then I introduced turn taking and sharing. That wasn’t easy! I let him have lots of turns then would take the iPad for “mommy’s turn.” He was not pleased when it was mommy’s turn, but after a while he realized that the iPad always comes back, so he learned to wait his turn.

Then I started the game, albeit a very simple one:

·         First mommy takes a turn and makes a very small firework: “Oh, that was so small. Oh well.”

·         Then it’s Ivan’s turn and he makes a bigger firework: “Wow! That was GREAT! Your firework was BIGGER! You win!”

Since Ivan had already learned that bigger was better and that we were taking turns, it really didn’t take him very long to figure out that we were comparing our fireworks and that the bigger one was the “winner.” He was thrilled and couldn’t get enough.

Of course, I always let him win at first. When we first played a game where I won, he was quite upset about it… and that’s a good thing! That’s the proper response to losing a game and I was so proud of him when he was a sore loser – it means he’s getting it!

Now we have to work on how to lose graciously….
To hear more from Amber on what links she finds helpful for children with visual impairments
please check out the's ipad reviews.

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