The use of mobile devices and Apps with people with disabilities is a new phenomenon; particularly in Ireland. People hold many reservations about using mobile devices and Apps with their child/adult; however, research is showing that these reservations are in the majority untrue.
One of the biggest reservations reported by parents/professionals is the amount of time the child/adult would be exposed to the screen of the device and the potential for them to become dependent or obsessed with the device. This is a valid concern for many reasons; however, if mobile devices and Apps are used correctly and for a specific purpose this is not a cause for concern.
Implementing a programme to transition a person to a mobile device and App is a hugely unique process and service (contact ImpoweringApps for more info); however, you can begin the transition independently. I am an advocate for empowering parents and professionals to take an active role in the implementation of interventions. Parents and professionals are at the forefront of delivering daily care and are experts in their own right; thus, they are imperative to the successful implementation of a new intervention. Implementing a new intervention can be a daunting task with many uncertainties; thus, here are some tips to help you transition a person to using a mobile device and App. Believe it or not; but, the first step is all about you! In order to successfully implement a mobile device and App it is important for you to first become familiar with both. Giving yourself confidence and developing competency around the use of the mobile device and App will go along way when you are assisting someone else with transitioning to this intervention. The more competent your skills are with the device and App the better able you are to guide someone else to a successful intervention. Thus, before you introduce any App or mobile device take a few hours for yourself to have a play around with the device and App. And remember, unless you drop it from a height you will not break the device by simply tapping it!!!
When you decide to introduce the mobile device or App ensure that you have another highly reinforcing item with you. For example, if a person is highly motivated by a particular jigsaw puzzle use this to introduce the mobile device and App. Hence, you can introduce the mobile device and App for as long as the person will engage (it may be seconds or minutes) and can immediately reinforce their engagement with the jigsaw. You can continue this for as long as is necessary. Ensure that the App you are using is for a specific purpose (i.e. communication, social skills, literacy, etc.). Only use the mobile device for this purpose. If you introduce other Apps such as, youtube, you may confuse the user in relation to the purpose of the device and your initial intention may get lost as a result. If the person is highly motivated by youtube I recommend using a different device for this as it will create clear boundaries as to the purpose of the new mobile device and App.
Introduce one App at a time. Try not to overload the user by introducing several Apps. Use one and ensure it is a positive and successful interaction for everyone before introducing a second App; particularly, if they do not have the same function or purpose.
If you are using the mobile device and App for the purpose of communication you may be the person carrying the device around for them; this is not a negative. If the person is engaging with the App to communicate this is a huge milestone; you can teach the person to carry the device with them at a later date.
Finally, remember praise, praise and more praise. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of the positive behaviour reoccurring. This is essential when learning new skills. Enjoy the adventure….