I’m sure most of the everyday ways I use technology as a parent are similar to many other people out there. Who hasn’t given an iPod to a fussy child in a restaurant, or popped a DVD into the player in the car to make a long ride shorter? But I use it in another way, too. I found that through technology, I was able to help my middle child overcome some learning difficulties.
Nate, as a baby, was sweet tempered, a great sleeper, and a generally happy child. There was nothing in him then that would signal some of the difficulties we would run into with him as a toddler, but inside he was a ticking time bomb. He learned to walk early-9 months-and was rarely still after that. He figured out baby gates by 12 months, and there was no containing him. He got older, started to talk, and generally seemed a very normal, if active, toddler.
Then he started having seizures. The suddenness of how Nate went from normal to sick left us all feeling like we’d been hit by a truck. They first day he started having seizures, he had six. The first one at home, the next five in the Emergency Room and hospital room, as doctors frantically tried to figure out what was going on to cause them. Many tests, a discharge and readmit, and consults with many specialists later we had a diagnosis of epilepsy. After a few days to make sure that the medicine was controlling the seizures, they sent us home.
They’d sent us home with a different kid.
Nate was still his mainly happy self, still careening through the house and climbing up on everything, but there was one major difference. He didn’t talk anymore. Going into the hospital, Nate had a vocabulary of maybe 15 words, plus many sounds. After we were discharged, all the babbling and words stopped. It was nearly seven months before Nate made another meaningful sound.
I can remember my joy as a tiny, rather rusty voice yelled “Boon!” (balloon) when we drove past a car dealership. He’d rediscovered one of his lost words, and I knew at that moment that he would be OK.
And, as a five year old, he talks. Quite a bit. At length. But we have discovered that Nate struggled with some tasks, especially letter and number recognition. Nate can tell you verbally what sound any letter makes, but until recently he could not recognize the letter on paper. Nate certainly has some gifts to go with these deficits-he can put together 100 piece puzzles, for one-but my husband and I know he needs to learn the letters as well. We found a couple of ways, using technology, to help him. Here are the three programs that were most helpful to us:
Calliou Preschool is great for Nate, since it will ask him to find the letter, as well as showing him an example. There is a different game for each letter of the alphabet, so he doesn’t get bored doing the games. He can use the game with very little help from us, which makes him feel more independent. My only complaint with this program is that it is set up into three distinct programs-Calliou ABC, Callious Counting, and Calliou Thinking Skills. One program actually needs to be closed before another can be opened. I wish that it was more streamlined.
We have had Jumpstart Preschool forever. My oldest son used it as a toddler, and we brought it out again for Nate. Nate loves this game because by playing, he can earn “train tickets” and his character can ride around on a train. Nate loves trains. This game is a little on the easy side for him, with activities like “Hide and Seek” that don’t present a challenge. (It is marketed to ages 2-4, so some games seem “boring” to five year old Nate.) However, he likes to play it and the letter and number recognition skills are great.
ABC PocketPhonics is an iPod app. My son likes to play this game because he feels like a big kid, getting to use the iPod. I like this game because it not only teaches him his letters, it teaches him how to draw and blend these letters. For a child like Nate, with letter recognition issues, it is a good mix.
Technology has helped my son become more confident in his letters, and that is translating to confidence in school. While Nate still has a long way to go, he has made great strides recently. I have every confidence that he will continue to do so with the help of the programs mentioned.