I have been a bit of a latecomer to technology. Watching my own kids as well as my clients get “hooked on” computer games, and now iPads and iPhones, have frustrated me to no end. I visit schools and see dozens of students who have poorly developed fine motor and visual motor skills. They slouch over their desks because they lack sufficient postural strength to fight gravity for long; probably as a result of too little movement and too much screen time. I watch kids with social challenges hide in corners playing with devices…alone. Yet, there is a common language and interest among children within the world of technology. Can there be a way to use it for physical, perceptual, and social good?
We came up with a couple fun ways to use technology in our Social Adventures groups that could promote positive growth in a variety of areas. One of my new favorites is using the Cookie Doodle app as a barrier game. Divide the group into two teams. Each team has an iPad with cookie doodle. The kids lie on the floor on their bellies facing each other with the iPads standing up back to back (like the battleship game). The kids can use pillows or wedges to lie on if maintaining weight on their elbows is too difficult. Heavy bean bags or weighted blankets can be placed on the kids’ backs if deep tactile pressure is warranted. Don’t have a group, or two ipads….this positioning can be done in individual sessions as well!
Now, for the technology and communication part… a child on team A chooses a type of dough and tells the other team so they can choose the same. A child from team B then chooses icing and tells the other team the color and where to put the icing on the cookie. The object of the game for the kids is to create cookies that are exactly the same without looking at the other team’s cookie. The goals of this activity for therapists may be to improve postural strength and stability, integrate primitive reflexes, develop strong hand dominance, cross body midline, improve ocular-motor control, improve proprioception through pressure control on the iPad, develop or reinforce spatial concepts, to effectively communicate, negotiate, be flexible, to ask clarification questions, to respond to a peer when spoken to, and to play with a friend.
Since technology is so reinforcing for kids, I finally jumped on the bandwagon…and I’ve discovered that it’s reinforcing for a reason. Technology is fun and when adapted for specific purposes, can
be surprisingly therapeutic!
Jill Perry MHA MS OTR/L