Simple, Early Development Apps for Visually Impaired Kids

Within the last few years, I have worked closely with an international family who have an adorable, bright child with significant developmental delays.  Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is one of the obstacles this little guy juggles when trying to access his learning environment.  His therapy team and family recognized early on that he responded intently to his mom's iPhone, and later, to the iPad when used as reinforcement during therapy sessions.  Pretty soon, our team was posed with the question:  "Would an iPad help him reach his learning potential?"  I wasn't sure at first, considering the visual limitations he struggled with, but I knew one thing for certain-he "used his eyes" with the iPad,  and for kids with CVI, THAT may just be the right start to a beautiful relationship!  I struggled, however, to find Apps that provided a good balance of sensory soundness, visual simplicity, high contrast, and all the other elements that make visual materials more relevant and digestible for kids with CVI and other visual impairments.  In my quest to arm this family with some starter Apps, I came across a few that, although not perfect, came a little closer than others to providing a motivating yet visually simplistic platform upon which to practice some very important skills.

In my next few posts, I want to share the Apps I have used thus far-how I used them, what I accomplished, what I loved, and what I didn't.

Let's start with a FREEBIE! :)

1) Bla Bla Bla
This free app has high contrast "faces" that respond and change to sound received through the idevice's microphone (e.g., voice, claps, etc..).  The high contrast, black on white images, paired with the movement on the screen that occurred only when sound was produced, really grabbed my little guy's attention!  He quickly grasped the cause-effect relationship between vocalizing and making things happen on the screen, which led to wonderful vocal play and the opportunity for us to work on some speech goals (controlling vocal volume from loud to whisper, producing sustained voice, expanding syllable strings) with some pretty fun visual feedback!  The greatest feature of this App is indeed it's simplicity. :) One downfall may be the stylized look of the artwork used in the App (although,my little one didn't seem to mind).

For your kids with visual needs that don't have the ability to imitate or independently vocalize, I could see using this app for pure cause-effect practice and using an external sound source to get the App moving, such as a Big Mack or switch-adapted voice output device programmed with a fun sound, word, or phrase.  Try it out and let us know how it goes!
Stay tuned for more high-contrast App picks and check out iPad News Daily for a GREAT article on how "iPads May Help Kids with Severe Visual Impairments".

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