I really hate to do this. I am a lifelong supporter of Apple, and this post isn’t really a knock on them. It is aimed at the hype surrounding iPads and how much they can help kids with special needs. In our case, it has caused more problems than helped.
I believed the hype. I wanted my son to have a tool with access to fantastic apps that were designed especially for his disorder. So when our old mac mini started slowing down due to age, limited ability to update, and the massive amount of files that The Boy likes to create and save, I decided to purchase an iPad that would be primarily his. As a birthday present. His only birthday present. Maybe for a few years. Some people will read this and remark how spoiled my child is. In this day and age, a kid needs a computer. Rather than buy him a new one outright, I lumped it in with his birthday. I don’t think that’s so spoiled.
In any case, I prepped him for it. No food or drinks while using the iPad. It will be in a case at all times in case you drop it. There will be rules attached to this thing, and you will follow them. Yes, I will, he assured me. And I did not make the fatal mistake of attaching a credit card to the account, thank goodness. I would be up to my eyeballs in smurfberries, from what I hear. No, we only used gift cards to purchase apps. But in the meantime, The Boy loaded the device up with as may free apps as he could find.
1. It is too easy to download apps. While The Boy understands free, he does not understand that there is limited space for these apps. And he is not savvy enough to decide whether or not he will actually use the app. (“I like Chevy Sonics, because I like Sonic the Hedgehog, therefore I have to have the Chevrolet app!”)
2. It is too portable. The thing is so damned portable that The Boy insists on taking it everywhere, so even going to the grocery store has become a battle. He does not understand where and when it is appropriate to use the iPad, and so it has added another level of confusion for one who is trying to figure out already complicated social rules.
3. It is too easy to get stuck on it for an entire day. There are days when he only comes out of his room when coaxed by promises of ice cream because he is stuck on the iPad watching endless youtube videos, and playing endless video games. More work for me, as the special needs parent, making sure he doesn’t get sucked in.
4. It is too easy to sneak after lights out. The iPad has created a bedtime nightmare. For a child that doesn’t get enough sleep as it is, this temptation is too great for him to simply comply with bedtime routines and rules.
Some of you may look at this list and think, “He is too spoiled. You are giving him too much freedom.” My response? He is no longer a toddler. He has entered 5th grade, and I value his independence. Could I take it away? Certainly, and have done. But curbing these habits has created more work for me as a special needs parent, creating social stories about bedtime, with limited success, listening to the meltdowns because there isn’t anymore room to take pictures and videos when he won’t allow me to move them to make some room.
Are there benefits? Sure. He is writing a ton about his thoughts and feelings using Notes. He gets very creative with videos. There are a lot of benefits (and I’ll probably write another post highlighting them). But there are also lots of different parameters I would set if I had it to do all over again. And, realistically, if I had it to do all over again, it would be easiest to just not get one.
Have your experiences with the iPad and special needs been positive or negative? Tell us about it.