iHelp tools to assist kids with learning difficulties

There’s no question that kids have largely taken over parents’ phones – yes, we still get to use our own phones for phone calls but for kids, they are on-the-go entertainment devices. There is a huge range of fun and educational apps available and some cater to specific needs.

Child and educational psychologist Andrew Greenfield has put together a useful list of kids’ learning apps that can help children with learning difficulties.

Learning difficulties (LDs) are generally described as a discrepancy between a child’s ability or cognitive potential (mostly measured by an IQ assessment) and achievement (measured by tests of literacy and arithmetic). Children with LDs may underachieve in some or many aspects of their education and have significant trouble in one or more of the following areas: listening, speaking, reading, writing and mathematical skills. Learning difficulties are not indicative of intelligence levels and in fact many children can be gifted with LDs.

LDs may be associated with attention difficulties such as ADHD, social difficulties such as Asperger’s Disorder, or language difficulties/specific language impairment such as dyslexia. In fact, dyslexia affects five to ten percent of the population.

The good news is that we live in a world with many tools to help children with LDs. Health professionals can make specific assessments and work with a child’s strengths and weaknesses, and there are many iPhone and iPad applications to tackle specific difficulties with reading, writing, dictating, summarising, organising, collating and sorting.

There are many apps available however Greenfield suggests the following make a good starting point:

  • Montessori Letter Sounds – assists children with phonological awareness (above).
  • Slide & Spin – useful for developing fine motor skills in toddlers aged eighteen months to three years. Children have to slide or spin the corresponding colour knob in order to reveal hidden surprises (The app shown at top).
  • Montessori Counting Board – helps toddlers to learn how to count.

  • iWriteWords – develops your child’s handwriting while playing a fun and entertaining game (above).
  • Jungle Time – a fun app for learning how to tell the time (shown at bottom).

  • Alphabet Blocks – Teaches children the letters of the alphabet and implications for pre-reading skills (above).

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (commonly known as ADD and ADHD) is a condition that affects many children. Current opinion and research says that  five to ten percent of children have a mild degree of ADHD (with or without the hyperactivity) and two percent of children are considerably disadvantaged by it. Specific apps to assist children with ADHD both at home and in the classroom include:

  • iEarnedThat – Helps children develop desirable behaviours by working towards tangible goals. The app works by choosing a behaviour for the child and then taking a picture of what the child wants, whether it be computer time, a visit to a park and so on. The picture is broken down into puzzle pieces. Each time the child achieves the desired behaviour, they can add a piece to the puzzle. Upon completion of the puzzle the child receives an award. The app is good for all ages (below).

  • iReward – A motivational tool using star charts to help reinforce positive behaviours. This type of praise or approval will help parents of typically developing children, children with autism, developmental delays, ADHD and anxiety disorders.
  • HomeRoutines – This app can be customized for any age. Create routine checklists, then complete them on chosen days of the week, with reminder notifications and a gold star for each completed task.

Most children with ADHD, Asperger’s, dyslexia and other learning difficulties may find these apps useful in creating a fulfilling, stimulating and fun working environment. It is important to remember that children with learning difficulties should not become too reliant on these tools but instead use them to aid in their studies.

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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