Common Sense Media recently recognized their “ON for Learning” award winners at an event in SanFrancisco.The 55 award-winners were given their highest rating for quality and learning potential. Looking over the list of winners there were 3 names that jumped out at me as apps that are consistently among the all-time most played apps in my household, so I wanted to put a spotlight on those today.
Bobo Explores Light by Game Collage
This is a simply brilliant science app that explore all manner of topics associated with light. I reviewed this app almost 2 years ago but it is still a firm favorite in my household. Bobo is is a cute little robot and is your guide throughout the app. Bobo takes you through 21 different topics including: lightning, color, space, photosynthesis and refraction. Every topic has interactive experiments and you can touch Bobo’s antennae to activate interactive holograms. On each page there are a number of hidden screens which pull down to give you more information, the app has over 100 pages in total!! This app is designed for children who can read independently, but it is so engaging that my now 7-year-old son has had it in his favorite apps since he was 4. It is not narrated, and his reading ability is not yet strong enough to read the text, so I have been reading it to him, but he has been doing the experiments independently since age 4. My now 10 year-old also loves it! Very highly recommended, this app is fun, engaging and contains a wealth of science information.
Bobo Explores Light – Game Collage, LLC
Bobo Explores Light
by Game Collage, LLC
Price: $4.99 USD
••• Apple Design Award 2012 Winner •••
Hold a fully functional science museum for kids 4-12 in the palm of your hand!
iPad App of the Week, winner of the KAPi Award 2011 for.
Ansel & Clair by Cognitive Kid
Two of the Ansel & Clair apps by Cognitive Kid made the list of award winners- Ansel & Clair’s Little Green Island and Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa but the whole series deserves a mention as they are all very engaging, creative, educational children’s apps. The iMums have reviewed Ansel & Clair Paul Revere’s Ride, Ansel & Clair American Bowl and Ansel & Clair Jurassic Dinosaurs, Triassic Dinosaurs and Cretaceous Dinosaurs. All of the apps star Ansel – a friendly intergalactic traveller from the planet Virtoos, and Clair his robot companion who accompanies him on his mission to learn more about life on Earth. The apps are educational games that create animated, immersive, interactive, learning experiences. In Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa the adventurous duo explore the Sahara Desert, the Nile Valley and the Serengeti Plains. They learn about the history, geography, flora and fauna of Africa. In Ansel & Clair: Little Green Island children learn about ecology, pollution and protecting the environment. Each child gets to create their own island paradise, and then see how changes on the island can cause increases in environmental pollution.
Ansel and Clair: Little Green Island HD – Cognitive Kid, Inc.
Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa – Cognitive Kid, Inc.
Minecraft by Mojang
Minecraft is an independent computer game that has taken the US by storm – it has over 100 million registered users in the US! At the schools my children attend is is a major playground talking point. The original game is available for PC or Mac from Minecraft.net, and it is also available for many other platforms including an iOS version. The iOS version is more limited than the computer edition, but still allows children endless hours of creative free play and is an ideal place for younger players to learn about the game. In creative mode the aim is to simply build your own world – creating 3D structures and planting trees and flowers in a very open creative environment. I love how there are no rules – it is just about using your own creativity. There is no end of videos available on Youtube for inspiration (although I would recommend parents screen them as not all have suitable language for children to hear). All 3 of my children love playing and have created their own unique worlds. A great side benefit of the game is it has also given my son with Aspergers a means to bond with his peers – he and his fellow Minecraft aficionados spend many, many hours discussing their latest builds and advising each other on new things to try.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition – Mojang
Price: $6.99 USD
The Better Together update is here! Explore massive multiplayer servers directly from the game menu and play with friends on all different devices.
Skin, texture, and mash-up packs from the community.
Looking over the list of “ON for Learning” award winners which are your favorites ? Are there any choices you disagree with ?
The iMums were honored recently to be chosen to be one of the Common Sense Media Ambassadors – a select group of bloggers who work with Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization “dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.” Common Sense Media rates and reviews all kinds of media for children – movies, games, websites, TV, apps and more. Their Learning Ratings rate media for age-appropriateness as well as factors such as engagement and learning approach.
You know how we try to keep nudging our kids towards greater goals? How we try to help them develop flexibility while at the same time respecting their need for consistency and structure? How we try to gently push them out of their comfort zone so that they can experience more? Learn more? Grow more? Well guess what? We need to do that for ourselves as well. Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to take the straight line between 2 points – because it’s easier – and aren’t our lives hard enough already? The thing is, when we stay on that straight line, we actually create more challenges for our kids with special needs in the long run.
For years I dreamed of a family vacation that my girls could enjoy. But they’ve never flown. But they haven’t slept away from home since they were babies – except for hospital stays. But they have special diets. But we can’t eat out at restaurants. But we would have to bring so much food with us. But they need structure. But they need consistency. But … but…but…but…
And then I realized that despite my best efforts I had begun to play it safe. Community outings were far and few between. We have a comfortable home and my girls were happy. Play date? Why don’t you come over for lunch? It’s raining? Let’s just stay in today. School vacation? Anyone want to come spend some time with us at our house? Our home is predictable. The girls are comfortable here. We have our routines. We have our structure. It’s good here. But…
They need more. We need more. We have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone just as much as we have to do that for them. They deserve more – and so do we. We spend so much of our time waiting … to get through the day … to get through the week … to get through the school year …
Here’s the message I want to get out there – As parents of children with special needs, we have to live for today while planning for the future. That means taking risks now that will make a difference tomorrow. Stop waiting until they are ready. Stop waiting until YOU are ready. Go. Do. Live. But…
Do it responsibly. Take baby steps. Think things through and come up with ways to make it a little bit easier. Here are a few steps we took to ensure a successful vacation (and by the way – I almost cancelled everything a week before our trip because I was afraid it would be too much):
- We found a lodge that was 5 hours away (think of it as a get out of jail free card – we could always drive right back).
- We got a place with a kitchen so we could prepare our own meals.
- We brought lots of comfort foods so their eating habits didn’t have to change along with everything else that would be changing during our vacation week.
- We called ahead and spoke to the manager to discuss our children’s special needs.
- We took extended family members. We had 2 grandmothers, an uncle and an aunt. The girls were surrounded by people who loved them and were so happy to have this time with them. (Cost sharing bonus here as well.)
- We were careful not to over plan. In fact, we didn’t plan anything. We did a little research about what was available in the area and then we waited to see how things would go.
- Before each outing we called ahead and discussed the girls’ needs. Everyone went out of their way to make each excursion a success.
- We found a restaurant that would allow us to bring our own food for the girls while the adults ate from the menu. This was the first time since Ava was a baby that she was actually in a restaurant!
- We came prepared with familiar books, toys and art supplies.
- We brought a few novel books, toys and art supplies.
- We brought their iPads fully charged with some new apps their teachers recommended.
- We let them surprise us with what they could handle – and they really blew us away!
What did I learn?
I learned to no longer underestimate what my kids can handle. I will not limit their experiences because of my own fears and insecurities. I will challenge myself to expand their horizons. And when it backfires I will adjust my plan and try again. Because they deserve it … and so do I.
Time to start planning our trip to Disney 🙂
Kirsten and her husband Eric (the girls’ step-father) live on Long Island in NY. Kirsten is an early childhood educator with a Master’s degree in special education. Eric is a computer engineer. Together they developed So Much 2 Say, an iPad AAC app, to help their daughters communicate more effectively. Their daughters, Autumn and Ava, have multiple disabilities. They are non-verbal with cognitive impairment and they are both on the autism spectrum. Although the girls share many medical needs, they are unique individuals with their own strengths and challenges. These loving parents attribute much of their children’s successes to the large network of extended family members and friends who have always surrounded the girls with love and acceptance.
The WoodTones Earbuds with Control Mic by Griffin Technology are a more organic-looking alternative to the Apple Earpods for for iPhone, Android or tablet. They feature real wood enclosures engraved with the Griffin logo and a choice of soft rubber tips. The earbuds have an inline mic/ controller to allow you to answer calls on your iPhone and change music tracks.
I’ve been testing these earbuds out for a couple of months and they have become my preferred everyday earbuds for listening to music and answering calls when out walking. I take my dog out for walks everyday and use these to keep up on phone calls whilst I walk, and to listen to music when I’m not on the phone.
They work very well for taking phone calls – I can hear the other person clearly and get no complaints about call quality at the other end, if the music is playing when a call comes in it stops whilst I take the call and restarts afterwards. If you press and hold the mic button it will activate Siri.
The earbuds come with a hemp fiber drawstring carrying pouch, which is useful for storage, and 2 extra pairs of soft rubber tips in different sizes. I used the standard tips that came installed on the earbuds and find them comfortable and stay in place well in my ears.
For listening to music the sound is crisp and clear with no crackles, obviously they don’t have the same depth of sound as a $200 over the ear headphone, but the sound quality is very good for the price point. With the earbuds properly fitted they do a good job of cutting out ambient noise. The in-line mic can be used to pause the music or change track, but there is no in-line volume control.
The WoodTones Earbuds are a great alternative to Apple Earpods – they are comfortable, look and sound good and make a great pair of everyday earbuds.
Available in Beech or Sapele Wood RRP $29.99 from GriffinTechnology.com, a version without inline mic/ control is also available for $19.99.
- 8 mm moving coil neodymium magnet drivers for powerful sound
- In-line control mic works with Siri and many other voice control systems
- Impedance: 16 ohms ± 15%
- Sensitivity: 103 dB ± 3 dB
- Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
- 4 foot TPE-jacketed cable with gold-plated 1/8″ (3.5 mm) plug
NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.
When I was asked to write a piece about autism for The iMums, given that I’m not autistic I decided to share with you the only thing I am an expert on – what it’s like to parent my children.
A couple of points to note first. Autism is a developmental disability and as a non-disabled person, the challenges I tackle from time to time are nowhere near as significant as the hurdles my children face daily. Secondly, I have never once wished my children were not autistic; I adore and accept them exactly the way they are.
Bearing those caveats in mind, here are some of the things I’ve found hardest to manage:
- The administration. In order to get the accommodations, services and supports my kids need, I have had to fill in more forms, attend more meetings, appointments and workshops, do more research and learn more things than I ever imagined possible.
- The isolation. There’s a counterpoint to this so make sure you read on, but I do sometimes wish I had someone I could call and have a cup of tea with. There are parent support groups but even if I didn’t have to do a 3 hour round trip to attend one, I still wouldn’t want to sit and listen to people talking about how much autism sucks. Friends whose kids are typically developing seem to fall into two camps. First there’s the pity crowd who are “so sorry” about my boys’ diagnosis. I’m not sorry, my kids are awesome. Then there are the folks who breezily declare, “well all parents have to deal with that.” Yes, given that my children are people and not dolphins, obviously there are many things that we have in common but honestly, it’s not the same.
- Fear for their future. All parents know this feeling but autistic adults (even when compared to other disabled individuals) are much more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than their non-autistic peers. I worry about my boys growing up in a society that focuses solely on their deficits and differences. I want them to live in a world that values diversity and sees their strengths.
- When I don’t understand my kids. My non-speaking son is incredibly adept at communicating what he wants and this continues to improve as he uses AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). My other son, Oliver, is verbal but highly echolalic. I know that behaviour is communication but sometimes I struggle mightily to understand what Oliver’s behaviour means. Not having the same neurology as my children can be frustrating and painful at times.
- My boys are autistic in very different ways so when their needs come into conflict – when Oliver’s sensory seeking behaviour triggers Owen’s sensory sensitivities, for example – it’s extremely hard to come up with solutions where everyone’s needs get met.
Having said all that, there are some terrific benefits that I would never have experienced if my children weren’t autistic. Here’s some of them:
- An online support network. I have so many friends who, even if they can’t be with me in person, are incredibly understanding and supportive. I especially value the input of autistic adults who can often interpret my children for me in ways that make it easier for me to understand them.
- I’m a better person and I’m pretty sure, a better parent than I otherwise would have been. Trying to understand my children and balance their competing needs does have an upside. I’ve read books and articles, met people, written things, had to get my head around concepts and generally followed a path I would not otherwise have taken. I’ve had to exercise my powers of deduction and imagination – both in understanding my kids and coming up with creative solutions for some of the issues they face. There’s nothing more satisfying than making your child’s life easier, better or happier.
- It’s much easier to raise my children to be themselves. My kids get to focus on things they enjoy. They are allowed to leverage their special interests and areas of strength in order to develop new skills. Their education is individualized to suit them, they don’t have the same pressure to conform and they aren’t forced to wear the straitjacket of a standardized education.
- In many ways my boys are so easy to parent. They enjoy their own company so I’m not forced to feel that I always should be with, play with or talk with them. Their lives are relaxed and not over-scheduled with play groups, school clubs or ludicrous amounts of homework. They have freedom to just ‘be’ which in turn makes being a solo parent much less stressful for me.
I clearly can’t claim that this is what life’s like for all parents of all autistic children but I hope I’ve given you an idea of what it’s like for me – and that I wouldn’t have it any other way.