Our son William was born in 2005 with Down syndrome and some seriousÂ medical complications.Â In 2011, we founded “Special iApps” to developÂ educational apps to help teach children like William and those withÂ other learning disabilities.
We last wrote here about William in 2012 (http://staging.bridgingapps.org/2012/03/williams-story/).Â Three years later heÂ continues to be happy, enthusiastic and interested in everything!Â HeÂ has just joined Cub Scouts, and continues to swim every week.
William’s sight vocabulary has grown enormously, although his spokenÂ words are still limited.Â He’s included in a local mainstream school,Â and takes his iPad every day.Â William enjoys reading books, and storiesÂ we create in our “Special Stories” app, and this has proved to be aÂ brilliant tool for home-school communication.Â He is mad about theÂ CBeebies Alphablocks TV program and DVD videos, and loves their paperÂ letter cards: he likes laying them out on the floor, picking each one upÂ and saying the letter sound, and arranging them into words he knows.Â His favorite film is Disneyâ€™s Frozen: he acts out scenes and singsÂ along.Â We always switch the subtitles on when watching DVDs or TVÂ programs as we feel that this also helps with his sight reading.
Like most children with Down syndrome, William has challenges withÂ numeracy, but is making great progress.Â He enjoys using our “SpecialÂ Numbers” app, can match the numbers “1, 2…” to the words “one,Â two…”, and is learning to arrange jumbled up numbers into the correctÂ order.Â He has a large Velcro calendar and every morning beforeÂ breakfast he changes the day, date and weather on it without any helpÂ from us now.Â We fit learning activities like this into his daily routine.
We have always used signs with William (we initially learned Makaton,Â which is based on British Sign Language), and school uses Sign SupportedÂ English (also BSL based).Â Â We recently wrote a new app “My 1st Signs“,Â using the sign drawings from the “Let’s Sign” BSL series, and when weÂ gave this to William for the first time he surprised us by correctlyÂ identify nearly all of the 150 signs in it. We started signing when heÂ was 6 months old, but it took quite a long time before he signed back toÂ us, and we are really pleased we persisted as he now has a big signingÂ vocabulary. When he has eye tests he signs what he sees to the optician.
Working memory is often limited in children who have Down SyndromeÂ (especially for spoken information), but there is lots of evidence thatÂ it can be improved by exercising it.Â One of the things we’re using toÂ help William with this is our “Match & Find” app. Weâ€™ve made bothÂ “Special Numbers” and”Match & Find” highly configurable in theirÂ settings, so they can be tailored to a learning level and adapted asÂ skills are learned.
You may think that William uses his iPad all the time!Â Actually, it’sÂ just one of the tools we and school use to help him (although a veryÂ powerful one).Â We feel it’s very important to explore every learningÂ opportunity at home and out and about, as well as giving William timeÂ for free play and hands-on sensory activities.Â He has a very full,Â varied and fun life, and brings joy to everyone he meets!
Written By: Â Colin Dean, William’s Father