Leisure Apps for Student with Multiple Special Needs

The iPad brings so many opportunities to our students with significant needs. I have the opportunity to work with a high school student in a multi-categorical classroom who has a dedicated iPad with Proloquo2go as her communication device. Setting up the Proloquo2go has been a work in progress, requiring consult from the speech and language pathologist, teacher and paraprofessionals for the Proloquo2go vocabulary and environments she will use it in. Although the iPad’s primary purpose is for communication, it also is very motivating for her and serves as a mobile source of  entertainment and leisure activities.  For those of us who are smitten by iDevicitis, we can only imagine the potential apps available to her allow her the same electronic access and interactions as other same aged peers. The coolness factor is huge and she also knows it!

She currently is using her iPad for greetings (“marketing”) at the morning coffee shop which the classroom runs at the high school as well as for other classroom communications.  Although the iPad is primarily for communication, leisure activities is another typical use by same aged peers. For this student the iPad is her communication device and offers leisure and independent access to communication and leisure activities, something that previously required several devices and assistance from others.

The classroom leisure time at the end of the day is a great time to work with her on communication, interaction and access to her iPad for leisure activities.   This is a good time to work on her operational competencies of the iPad and collaborate with paraprofessionals that supporting her throughout the day who can help identify communication needs and carryover its use.

With her motivation for using the iPad and the socialization it affords her, finding additional apps that support her leisure interests and peer interaction became a need.  Communicating her choices of music, food/ snacks  were no-brainers using the iPad with Proloquo2Go was the first step and loading Justin Bieber and Jonas Brothers music were next easy additions,  but finding leisure apps that were age appropriate and within her ability and engage others would require some thought and searching. What leisure activities would she like to do?  What activities would look appropriate, encourage interaction with same aged peers and be fun and successful?

Some of my requirements for searching for apps or content for her:

  • The apps or content would need to appear age appropriate
  • The app or activity would allow her independent access (that is all part of it right?) on the device
  • She could engage in the app or activity by her self as well as be an inviting app for others to engage with her
  • Only supervision or minimal assist to successfully participate with the app would be required after training and familiarity (with a goal of independence for her)

The search and trials began. Here are a few of the apps I have found thus far (this of course is a work in progress) that I felt met my goals:

Tic Tac Toe app – (Free/$) Can be played with one or two players. On an iPad, the grid on this apps is clear, simple and easy to perform.

Fun Bubbles – ($.99) – Easy bubble popping app. Simple and nicely presented. Individual or more than one can play this game.

Feed the Hippos (Lite/$) – Hungry hippos are looking for fruit to eat. Fling the fruit to the hippos to feed them. We are trialing this app to see how she does with it. It appears to have potential.

Little Puzzles (Free) – One of the fabulous Grasshopper apps. This app lists as Preschool Games but like all of the Grasshopper apps, you can import your own picture, record a voice to customize the puzzles. Number of puzzle pieces can be set from 4 to 36 allowing a great way to customize the puzzle for different skill levels. Use pictures of outings, classmates, family, vocabulary you are working on  and your students will have a new activity on your iPad. There are many puzzle apps available for free for the iPad.

Let’s Bowl (Free/Deluxe- $.99)-  A bowling simulation game quite real looking. Scores your points automatically. (Bowling is a familiar classroom outing).

Pocket Pond – (Free) – Features a pond with fishing swimming in the water that you can interact with. Provides realistic sounds of water splashing, with fish swimming and responding to taps on the screen as they swim at random in the pond. Extremely realistic, you can also feed the fish. add lily pads and food to the water. Enjoyed by young and old.

Best Corny Joke app (Free/$) – App with clean, silly, corny jokes!

Four in a Row Game (Free/$) – Similar to Connect Four, this game may require some assistance for the concept, but can be coached by a peer when playing.

Mouse Maze (Free/$) – Maze that starts very simple and advances in difficulty. Solo game but turn taking could foster interaction with a friend.

Penguin Racing (Free/$)- We have not trialed this app yet, but seems to be a possibility if she can learn to swipe on the iPad.

JitterBug (Free) – This is a cat app that you can catch or tap bugs. You can choose how many bugs and what kind you want to appear. It has levels of difficulty and an option of continuous play. Cleanly presented and nice graphics make this a fun and simple game for all ages! (Thanks Purina!)

No doubt there are many more game possibilities for students with special needs. I wonder how many other cool pet apps are available that would be appropriate for students? If you have favorite game apps for high school special needs students please share!

Suggestions for electronic books for high school students reading at a beginning level are also welcome. I intend to review book apps appropriate for this skill and age range in a future post as another option for the use of an iPad for special needs students.


About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in App Reviews, Apps for Special Needs, Game Apps for Special Needs, iPad, Leisure apps, Occupational Therapy, Special education and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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