Thursday, October 14, 2010

Saved By iPad, Part 2

Last I left you, I was frazzled, having had a rather bumpy 1st group with some new kids. There were mass interruptions, some shouting, mean words. The promise of time with my iPad grounded everyone, pretty much saving the session from utter ruin. There was an incident with a tree upon exit, but we don't need to talk about that.

One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  So what needed to be different with this group?  We thought about the composition of the group- one too many kids?  It's hard to make that decision and displace a client based on one group session.

Some years back, I had some success with one of Michelle Garcia Winner's brainchildren- a behavior plan called "Paper Clips and Thumbtacks" (Described in Thinking about You, Thinking about Me).  The idea is that kids can earn paperclips for behaviors that bond them to others, and are shown a tack (which can result in a paperclip removal) for unexpected behaviors, leading to a reward when a certain number of paperclips are earned.  The plan is designed for generalization outside of groups but clearly could be applied within a group setting for those who needed more structure.  What the reward would be was already worked out!

The night before our next group, I outlined the plan as simply and visually as possible, using Keynote.  I figured that the file could be sent to the Keynote app and used on the iPad as an interactive (and engaging) tracking chart.  Check out what this presentation looks like. When viewed on the iPad, the paperclips and thumbtacks can be dragged up into the chart during the session.

When this presentation was shown to the kids (we have an LCD player, but I think on a laptop it would have worked well too), they were attentive and asked thoughtful questions. From the first activity on, they were earning paperclips- it was like they were completely different kids!  To this day, four sessions later, I have only had to assign one tack, and the impact on that client was significant.  He turned his behavior around and quickly got back on track to earning the iPad activity at the end.

Because of this behavior plan, the group has really stabilized and I have been able to begin social thinking curriculum activities.  That's saying a lot, considering how our first session went. I am sure that low-tech ways to implement this plan would work too!

And the iPad? Besides being a visual tracker (handy because I can move to different areas of our therapy center and even outside), it has provided rewards to the kids of some turn-taking games at the end of sessions.  So far I am partial to Angry Birds (a tad abstractly violent), but the turn boundaries are very clear, and the kids pass the iPad after one slingshotting.  Flight Control HD has also been a hit, with the kids passing after one plane landing (this one is less easy to structure though, as it is so time-sensitive).

I am sure I will be able to incorporate the iPad for more socially themed apps, as I have in other groups.  If anyone knows some good games with clear turn boundaries, please let me know!

For now, I continue to be quite grateful to Steve Jobs.


  1. I just downloaded this one on the iPhone - Cut the Rope. It might take a little more time than the birds, but each kid could play a level, or even pass it once they get one star (in the easy levels). - Laura

  2. That one is great- so far I really like Chillingo apps. High Quality, low crapola factor such as ads, pleas for additional purchases.

    I could see this one being good for conditionals too! Apps with a "lite" version are perfect for this kind of reward situation, since they expect new things quickly and won't get far enough to warrant buying the full version!