California Deafblind Services

Gloria: The Ipad as an Informal Assessment Tool

10/29/2012 13:57

As an educational specialist I make school and home visits to provide technical assistance to families and service providers.  On many recent home visits I have brought along the iPad to help me get a better idea of the child's interests and needs. I have found the iPad is a great informal assessment tool because 1) it's very interactive even for the child who has a very limited attention span, because if the child has enough vision to perceive what is on the screen, the child usually responds, 2) it’s fairly easy for the child to activate, 3) it can run apps that offer different degrees of complexity so I can meet the child at the level where the child is, and 4) with one device you can present information in different formats, e.g., from information that already comes in the apps to content that I can create on the spot, such as a photo of the child or a favorite family member to observe the child’s reaction. The iPad is like having a large bag full of all kinds of interactive things that I can show to the child, and best of all it comes in one thin and small portable device.

An important strategy that I follow when introducing the iPad and the different apps to the child is to bring the iPad close to the child and observe how the child responds - no grabbing hands, no making the child sit in a particular way - allowing the child to interact or not.  I then present the child with an app that I believe will be easy for the child to follow and engage with.  I observe what the child can do and how he or she looks at the screen, what kinds of images the child pays attention to, how the child interacts with the iPad, and how much time the child remains engaged. Finally I slowly increase the level of complexity of the apps and observe how far the child goes.

For young children or children with limited educational exposure you may want to check out the sequence to introduce apps based on sequential developmental stages Cristi Saylor and I wrote in the latest CDBS newsletter. The article is called "Using the iPad and a Sequence of Apps for Young Children with Multiple Disabilities." Here is the link: 

I would like to finish with an example from a recent visit with a young child. In this instance the little boy took a while before he started engaging with the iPad. Initially I was little surprised because I could see that he had some vision. After a while though he began to touch the screen with an object he had in his hand. Later he touched it with his own hand although he preferred only to watch. So I began with the apps in the first level of the sequence I mentioned earlier, where he only needed to look at high contrast images that moved without his needing to touch them. Eventually I moved to a slightly higher level where the child needed to touch the screen in a particular area where some characters appeared, but he was not very responsive. I concluded that he was was not yet able to distinguish gross details. When we were finished, the mother said that she had never seen her child engaged this long in an activity; we had played together for about twenty minutes.