In honor of Autism Awareness Month, April’s Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight will feature a handful of our favorite bloggers and app review sites related to special needs and autism. We’re kicking off the series with this insightful interview with the staff of Smart Apps for Special Needs.
Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Smart Apps for Special Needs? What was the inspiration behind it?
Smart Apps for Special Needs (SAFSN): Smart Apps for Kids, the sister site for Smart Apps for Special Needs, hit 1 million pageviews during Autism Awareness Month in 2013. This proved a high interest in apps and resources for individuals with special needs, so the idea of a new site to focus on this audience was born. Smart Apps for Special Needs was launched as a Facebook page in June 2013. It grew much quicker than expected, so in August 2013 the blog was launched to further support our expanding audience.
OM: Briefly describe how iPads and apps help children with special needs.
SAFSN: IPads and apps are beneficial to special needs children because of their ease of use, easy accessibility, affordable cost and use across a wide range of subjects including math, science, English, shapes and communication. Many apps are customizable to support various learning abilities. Kids can often learn and play at a speed that works best for them with apps. They empower children by giving them control of their learning, and by allowing self-correction much more than when their learning is directed by teachers and other adults.
OM: What tips do you have for parents using apps with their special needs child?
SAFSN: Follow your child’s interests! If your child likes planets, find apps that teach around characters based in space or characters that are planets. If your child is fascinated with a certain character, find that character on the App Store. Getting a child engaged with the device under controlled circumstances (apps you approve of with characters they love) allows leverage to be built on how the child may utilize the iPad as they progress with their education. Make sure to set screen time limits and make sure you still do hands-on stuff with your child! Apps are wonderful, but people should not be replaced.
OM: What are the most important features you look for when selecting apps for special needs?
SAFSN: We look at six different elements for an app for special needs. We rate if it meets the intended goal, if it is worth the price, ease of use, educational value, entertainment and level of customization. We also think about apps for longevity. An app that is easy to use, but has no growth potential has a short shelf life. An app that is difficult for a child to maneuver without adult guidance prohibits independent learning and lowers the chances for building autonomy and growing self-esteem. Individuals with special needs are each unique; therefore, an app has to be considered for each person individually.
OM: What are some of your most trusted resources for special needs parents, teachers and therapists?
SAFSN: In order to best support our audience, we openly discuss with members of the special needs community — parents, therapists and developers. We trust the developers we work with and the suggestions from family and friends. We want to remind others that it is important to trust the therapists and teams that work with an individual child. It is great to get ideas from different places, but those working closest with an individual will be the best resources.
Thank you so much to everyone else at Smart Apps for Special Needs for participating in the Blogger Spotlight. Tune in again next week!