Parents turn to iPad apps for children's therapy

June 15, 2011 4:53:26 PM PDT
Therapy for children who have special needs is often slow and expensive. But what if it was a game on an iPad?

Some sharp Houston parents say using apps has helped their children progress faster and there are hundreds of apps that can help children and adults with disabilities.

Popping the bubbles is more than a game for three-year-old Rees.

"It's improved his fine motor skills; he didn't point before we had the iPad," said Rees' father, Mark Potts.

His mother Amy Potts had a form of leukemia while pregnant with Rees, causing a premature birth and many disabilities. But an iPad has become an unlikely therapist.

"We've tried every therapy and different types of therapies and we know this is one application and tool that will help him that he enjoys," Amy said.

Laura Rahman's son Noah was also premature. He has cerebral palsy.

"This has helped Noah tremendously with his fine motor skills. He had, like Rees, very little ability to point," Rahman said.

Now Noah can point and use the touch screen.

"He jumped up 12 months in fine motor, cognitive skills and communication," Rahman said. "It's not only what it's done for our child, but it's the ability to bring this to other people."

So Noah and Rees' parents began a website called SNApps: Special Needs Apps for Kids. And now SNApps has joined Easter Seals.

How do parents know which of the 30,000 apps will help their child with disabilities? That's where Easter Seals comes in. Now the company's doctors and therapists will review the apps to help parents know which ones work the best.

"I want to work on my fine motor and it will give you a list of apps and it will say my child is visually impaired so here's something that has sound with it as well," said Elise Hough with Easter Seals Disability Services.

"Maggie didn't have a voice and everybody gave up on her and said basically she'll never speak," said her mother, Bonita Merrill.

But she's getting speech therapy with an app. Maggie lost her voice when an overdose of chemotherapy caused brain damage. But she's getting her voice back.

"It was visual, it's touch and it's her hearing it," Merrill said.

"There's nothing else like it that you can program just for him and it's fun," Amy Potts said.

It's therapy in a game. And because it's an iPad game, this is one therapy that's fun for parents too.

Most of the apps cost 99 cents. Also, Easter Seals wants to expand the apps for older children and adults with disabilities.


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