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Collection: Early Childhood

purple arrowComputers for the Very Young: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

REFERENCE: Bradley, M. P. (1994). Computers for the Very Young: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime. Closing the Gap, 13 (2), 1, 5, 10.

It is copyrighted and reprinted by permission of: Closing the Gap, Inc. © 1994, P.O. Box 68, Henderson, MN 56044 .


CONTEXT: The author has used computers for the past six years in Kingsway Learning Center's Early Intervention Program (EIP) in Haddonfield, New Jersey with children ranging in age from birth to three. She has found the computer a useful teaching tool to:

PRACTICE: After a multi-disciplinary team evaluation, the child's needs were defined in an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Many of the IFSP goals were implemented in classroom and therapy sessions through use of a computer. Using the child's developmental level as a starting point, the child's interests and progress served as instructional and therapeutic guideposts. Vignettes of four young children illustrate how this computer-assisted approach assisted in their progress. Summarized below are the tasks defined for each child and the software and/or hardware they found useful.

1. Sean - twelve-month old hydrocephalic child:

Task: work on head control, weight shifting and concept of cause/effect.
Software: child lies prone over a wedge in front of computer while using switch- activated software such as Cause/Effect (IBM) or New Cause and Effect (Apple II series).
Task: exposure to cognitive concepts within 11 month to 4 year developmental level that child was unable to explore previously due to motor constraints.
Software: Fundamental Concepts (IBM).

Task: imitate simple sounds; also reinforce and generalize cause/effect concept.
Software: Noise, a program on Early and Advanced Switch Games (multi-switch).

In general, a variety of switches served as flexible and innovative tools to facilitate a wide range of fine motor movements, e.g., finger isolation, eye/hand coordination, left/right/midline orientation and bimanual movement. Also, the child worked on improving body image and ability to follow directions when pressing a switch with a foot, elbow, or knee.

2. Maria - 18 month-old child with Down Syndrome; also impulsive and distractible:

Task: understand concept of cause/effect initially via direct approach of touch sensitive screen (the action occurs at the place touched) as preparation for understanding cause/effect in an indirect way, (e.g., using a switch) Hardware/Software: TouchWindow with Creature Chorus for more direct approach.

Task: increase ability to attend to spoken language, learn the concept of waiting, and identify pictures of common objects; integrate visual, auditory and motor cues.
Software: TouchIt and FindIt programs from Early Concepts Skillbuilder Series.

Task: improve posture and balance; promote reaching, making choices and spontaneous language.
Hardware/Software: low table placed before a TouchWindow with Maria straddling a roll; McGee or Katies's Farm (IBM or Apple IIgs).

Task: listen and follow directions.
Hardware/Software: switch with Clowns or Children's Switch Progressions

identify and imitate one of five actions.
Hardware/Software: PowerPad with This Is The Way We Wash.

: begin to understand taking turns, a goal for social/emotional development.
Hardware: Sharing the PowerPad

3. Michael - 2 year old with spina bifida:

Task: explore spatial concepts and aspects of power mobility.
Hardware/Software: Joystick Trainer with adapted joystick on an Apple.

Task: explore spatial concepts and prepositions, and reinforce with a switch.
Software: Adventures of Quin with TouchWindow (IBM) and Where's Puff?

Task: explore spatial concepts in new ways while reviewing animals and animal sounds.
Software: PowerPad programs: Old MacDonald II (Apple) and The Farm (IBM).

Task: reinforce spatial concepts while introducing cognitive matching skills using colors and shapes.
Software: Mickey's Colors and Shapes (IBM).

4. Amy - 18-month severely involved child with cerebral palsy.

Task: explore possibilities for play, learning and augmentative communication.
Hardware/Software: Unicorn Expanded Keyboard, Adaptive Firmware Card, switches (Apple), Dino Maze and Fundamental Concepts (IBM) using space bar or head switch.


Staff at the Kingsway Learning Center's Early Intervention Program devised new ways to meet the needs of their early childhood population by studying each child's IFSP goals, researching appropriate software, and understanding the capabilities of the software and adaptive equipment. They found that by discussing the child's needs together, staff and families were able to determine the most appropriate positioning, assistive devices and software for each child and for each new developmental need. Benefits included positive family interactions that resulted from mothers, fathers and siblings playing on the computer together. Also, typically developing children and children with disabilities participated together in group play and in learning to take turns.

CONTACT(S): Madeleine P. Bradley is an Early Childhood Special Educator at the Kingsway Learning Center Early Intervention Program, 427 Crystal Lake Avenue, Haddonfield, NJ.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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