Thursday, July 9, 2009

myPC and Children with Special Needs

I was honored when Tammy from Autism Learning Felt (www.autismlearningfelt.com) asked me to write a guest post on her blog. Creating products for children and children with specials needs in particular, is much more than a business or job for me- it is my passion. I invented the myPC Stage I Keyboard because, as a mom, I know that our children- even as infants want to participate with technology. Every morning, their very first best friend- Elmo, gets on the computer and checks his email. They see mommy and daddy with their tech gadgets and on the computer and they want to experience it. Software vendors have known this for years- lapware: educational computer software for infants sitting on their parents laps is not a new concept. Neither is early learning software/games/websites for toddlers. Assistive technologies for individuals with special needs have also been around for years.

My goal with the myPC Stage I, II, and III Keyboards were to bridge the gap between children’s (including toddlers) desire to interact with computer-based learning via a healthy-stage based keyboard tool. Although we have met and exceeded that goal with our first release, the myPC Stage I Keyboard for toddlers ages two through four, we found that there are other inherent benefits of the keyboard that reach beyond technology.

Shortly after our release in 2008, I began hearing from families of children with autism and autism spectrum disorders; special ed schools and classrooms. They called thanking me for developing what they considered to be a motor skill and sensory development tool. Several parents wrote in saying that they did not even plug the keyboard into the computer, but that their children enjoyed touching the keys and saying the letters aloud (the larger, rubberized textures keys drew them in- along with the colors). They spoke of practicing teaching the alphabet, and how excited they were when they told their child to press an “a” and the child would do it. Eventually, some discussed introducing toddler friendly websites, such as sesamestreet.org; and how their children would be able to successfully engage with activities online without the distraction of pressing a function key or a right click. My heart warmed every time I heard from a parent or educator. Finally, another joy is that although it is adaptive, it is the same board for every child- they just can use it in different ways. They don’t have to feel different.

I am not a doctor or specialist, but I am a technologist. I am passionate about how we can utilize technology and technology based tools- be them hardware or software to create new opportunities for all. It is my mission and my dream. It warms my heart that I have been able to bring the joy of learning and access to technology to children with special needs.

For more information about products that may be helpful for children with autism, visit http://www.autismlearningfelt.com/

Autism Speaks is a great organization and resource site to learn more about autism, visit and support http://www.autismspeaks.org/

1 comment:

Sir John said...

Interesting article. and nice blog
Johnny Ray
www.sirjohn.org/bloglist
on twitter as sirjohn_writer