Tips to Assist Motor Access For iPad

As part of my series of posts on Technology for Children with Visual Impairment, I wanted to share some tips on fine motor access for the iPad and other tablets.  I will update this resource as more exciting technology becomes available!

Stylus & Pointers:  
For some kids, especially those that have difficulty isolating a finger, a stylus can be a great support for iPad access.  There are many stylus (styli? styluses? :)-let's say, "stylus options"- available and Stylus-R-Us does a great job of discussing some of these options.  They even have a section of their website dedicated to special needs (it's under "Physically Disabled").  Thanks to OT's with Apps for finding this great resource!  OT's with Apps also has an awesome post on creating your own stylus and some further details on specific stylus options that are functional for different needs.  Check it out here.  If you are looking for something a bit chunkier for younger users, check out the Griffin/Crayola iMarker- it is not only a handy stylus, but also has a great coloring App you can download for free :)

Some kids may already be using a pointing aid, such as a head pointer or mouth pointer, or may benefit form using such an aid.  Work with your therapy team to see if these pointing aids could be helpful to your child and then check out RJ Cooper's tips on how you can make your pointing aids work with the iPad touch screen.

I Didn't Mean to Touch That!:
Part of the reason that the iPad is such a functional, efficient tool for many of us who use it for leisure and business is because it responds to the slightest touch.  This can be a pro and a con for our kids with physical challenges.  Many times, areas of the touchscreen are activated unintentionally or special gestures (Multitasking Gestures) are accidentally used and the screen does funky stuff (e.g., zooms in, moves up and down)!  Unfortunately, Apple has not addressed this issue in the last two version of the iPad and we currently have no way to adjust the sensitivity settings of the touch screen.  Here are a few solutions that might be helpful for your child:

  • Multitasking Gestures are toggled on and off in the Settings of the iPad.  These gestures, when enabled, allow you to move between apps, open multi-tasking menus, and more by using three, four, or five finger gestures on the touch screen.  Sometimes, our kids have difficulty using just one finger on the screen and may activate these gestures by accident.  If you find this is a problem, you can turn the gestures off in the Settings menu of your iPad.  You may also notice that sometimes the screen zooms in.  This happens when two fingers tap on the iPad screen when the Zoom feature is turned on.  It also happens magically when little fingers and plans rest too long on the screen. :)  If you find this is a problem, turn the Zoom feature off on your iPad in the Accessibility section of the Settings.  

  • The iPad screen responds to the electricity (capacitive touch) of our fingers.  This is fancy science stuff but really what it means is that pressure is not what makes the iPad do its dance-rather, it is the energy that emerges when your finger (or special fabric/material if using a stylus made for a touch screen) comes in contact with the screen.  In the case of our kids with special needs, this could mean their intentional finger or the other ones coming along for the ride as they rest against the screen to offer support!  Dana of Uncommon Sense Blog is a mom who has first-hand experience with this issue and she came up with a clever solution in the form of DIY fingerless gloves :)  Check it out here.

  • Keyguards can also be helpful for kids with motor challenges who are using the iPad, so long as you are using an App that works with the key- guard layout.  Check out LaseredPics-they make keyguards for a variety of iPad Apps and will even make special order guards.  

What do you use to help your child access the iPad?

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