Being heard through a touch screen

A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about babies and toddlers playing with touch screens and suggested that we as parents should consider limiting our kids’ overall screen time. For one thing, it certainly seems that the various screen devices our kids (and even parents!) have available to them is getting in the way of bonding as a family. But what I didn’t think about is how touch screen devices are actually helping some families, particularly when someone in the family has a special need or communication barrier.

I have personally felt the benefit of touch screen devices – I am hard of hearing and lately I have been struggling with talking to my friends and family on the phone. Just the social acceptance of texting and emailing on these devices has helped me stay connected.

My colleague, Holly Paterson, is a Developmental Consultant and she works with children who have special needs. She has seen first-hand just how beneficial touch screen devices—especially tablet computers—are with kids who have trouble communicating. She just had to share this story with us:

Sophie, a little super star who happens to have Down syndrome was doing so well using sign language and some verbal words to express herself. Even her friends in preschool quickly learned her signs. But there were times when she just could not get her point across, no matter how much she tried to say or gesture. Small sentences appeared to be so frustrating; for example, “my turn with the train.” That’s when her mom and dad introduced her to a tablet computer. Sophie didn’t care much for TV (phew!), but was curious and intrigued that she could now put pictures together (with words) with a few swipes of her finger.

Within months she was putting 3 and 4 words together on the tablet, which would then say the sentence aloud, and then she would repeat the words to practice speaking!!! Amazing! Some kids learn language best when they can see a picture, see the word and hear the word all at the same time. And this leads to identifying letters, sounds, and of course reading!

Thanks to modern and relatively affordable technology, kids who struggle with using speech to communicate now have another option to express themselves, in addition to using their gestures, facial expressions, and body language.  And this is an amazing thing, because when our children are heard and their feelings are validated, they feel good about themselves, and we feel better as parents too!

Has your child with special needs benefited from a touch screen device? We’d love to hear from you, share your experience with us:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call  HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you'll find me on Facebook, Twitter and on this blog, writing about all things parenting. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to write about! :)
This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Children & Tweens with Special Needs, Parenting, Toddlers & Preschoolers, Toddlers & Preschoolers with Special Needs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Being heard through a touch screen

  1. kajsa says:

    My 9 year old son is excited to be the first I-Pad user at his school and we indeed finding that the “possibilities are endless”. Some fine motor challenges make handwriting a VERY time consuming and frustrating process. Smart kids (yes they are all smart but this is MY kid and as his Mom I can refer to him that way 🙂 ) with processing challenges find that a helpful tool like this can make a HUGE difference in transferring all those great ideas that are in your head onto ‘paper'(or a screen as the case may be). He can take a picture of the agenda message on the black-board with his IPad instead of being the last one out the door because copying it from the board took too long. That makes a big difference when you are 9.

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