California Deafblind Services

Gloria: The iPad and Apps for Children with CVI

11/07/2011 08:44

I had the opportunity to go to Junior Blind of America's professional development day and listen to Muriel Saunders, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor at the University of Kansas. She talked about her observations in working with several babies and toddlers with CVI, especially their positive response to the iPad even though they had no or very limited visual response to faces and objects.

She stated that some of the beginning goals in using the iPad were to:

-teach visual attention skills
-prepare for longer-term engagement
-learn how to reach
-teach cause and effect.

When these goals are accomplished, new ones can be added that pertain to joint attention:

-learning that you can do something with someone else
-having the child look at you when they want the iPad you are holding
-having the child turn to look at you as if asking, "am I doing it right?”

Later she compared the light box - a device used frequently with children with CVI - with the iPad.  Dr. Saunders reminded us that the use of the light box with children with CVI is effective because they like to look at bright light and the adult working with the child can control the visual stimuli.  She stated that some of its disadvantages are that it is heavy and bulky, has a limited number of forms and pictures, and has little action.

The iPad offers:

-brightly lit background/screen
-bright colors
-unlimited forms and pictures
-software that responds to the child's actions. (I'm in control; I have an impact.)
-the ability for the child to control starting and stopping
-possibilities for children who do not have reach and grasp
-portability due to its small size
-sturdiness if in the right casing (the Griffin Survival Case was recommended as the sturdiest case of all).

Dr. Saunders also featured a few videos of children with CVI. An interesting one showed a girl controlling what and when she wanted to see by looking away from the iPad. She was not hearing impaired so when she was not looking she could still listen to the story. After a few seconds she went back to see the story on the iPad. She knew the story would be there when she wanted to continue looking at it.  One quick note: they exposed the children to the iPad in semidarkness to help them focus.

Here are some of the basic cause and effect applications that Dr. Saunders shared with us:

Baby Finger
Little Gems
Cosmic Top
Musical Hand



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