Jedi recently received an iPad and wireless keyboard to help him with handwriting and spelling issues. Because of his asperger’s syndrome and dyslexia, he is several years behind in handwriting and spelling, to the point where being behind is actually causing a lot of problems. Cognitively, he is way ahead of his writing and spelling skills. So, this splintering of skills has made it very difficult for him.
Some of the questions we get about this (and the answers…. 🙂 ) are:
- Don’t you think that’s spoiling him?
This question always cracks me up. He didn’t get an iPad to keep up with the jones’ or to be the “cool kid in school” or “because everyone else has one”. He got it simply because it provides him with a way to compensate for a disability. We actually were going to get him a laptop, but he’s a whopping 47 pounds…a laptop is quite cumbersome for him in size and weight. An ipad is fairly light and very portable. He can easily bring it to co-op, therapies, and field trips without straining himself. It’s also lighter than most netbooks on the market.
- Isn’t it keeping him from learning to do it by himself?
If a child had a broken leg, you’d get him some crutches or a wheelchair. A child who is blind learns braille. Jedi has had YEARS of therapy focused on handwriting and he still can’t progress well enough to keep up with the requirements of 2nd grade. So, we are teaching him to type (his IEP actually calls for a scribe…or someone to do it for him. We think it’s more important for him to learn how to compensate for his deficits in a socially acceptable way. He is still doing handwriting and spelling practice without the use of technology, but he is also learning to type and use a spell check so that he can keep up with assignments.
One thing we notice about Jedi, and I believe this is also really common with other children with communication delays, is that requiring him to write an essay using good handwriting and good spelling is a recipe for disaster. This child can churn out a multi-chapter book (a 2nd grade version of authoring a multi-chapter book of course!) in a couple hours when we don’t tell him to use good handwriting and fix his spelling. But the second we put those two requirements on it, he’s so focused on it that it can take him over an hour to write one sentence. So, we have to split what many children can do without thinking. He has to separate spelling, handwriting, and composition into different lessons in order to allow him to focus on the particular skill being taught. Most of school involves composition–creative writing or answering questions, so giving him a tool to alleviate the spelling and handwriting anxiety allows his brain to focus on the other tasks at hand. Jedi even has apps that will dictate based on his own speech (so he can say his essay and the program will write what he says).
Will he continue to practice handwriting and spelling? Absolutely. Do we ever expect him to be proficient in it? At this point, we don’t know if he will be able to catch up. We certainly hope he will, but we also know that in 10-20 years, most people will be doing everything on their smart phones, tablets, computers, or whatever version of these exists. We hope he will be able to write a shopping list or jot a note down and we will continue to work with him to practice those skills.
- Ok, so it helps him with typing and dictation…what else can it do for kids with special needs?
- Isn’t the use of technology just making him dependent on technology?