Recently, a 7-year-old client walked into my office singing, “Shorty fire burnin’ on the dance floor. Oh whoa!”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “I have that song on my iPod,” Jonah said. “Sean Kingston, you know.” He then showed me some choice dance moves he choreographed for the song.
I didn’t give it much thought until later that evening when Sam came into my office. “Jeanne, I have something to show you,” he said, proudly holding his new iPod. He quickly scrolled to a song, mounted it on my small iPod player, and pressed play. “Ra ra, ra ra ra. Roma…..” He exclaimed, “Lady Gaga!” After applauding his musical taste and enjoying a short and probably horrific karaoke session that would make Gaga herself blush, we talked about how I went to her concert and why he likes her music. “She helps me think at school, especially during math,” he said.
Finally, a light bulb turned on.
I have always worked with a few clients with AS who wear headphones in group therapy to calm them or to dampen noise. I’ve encouraged schools to utilize music, especially with headphones, for many clients. Lady Gaga was not always my top choice, of course, but the goal was to increase focus, reduce sensory distractions, improve mood, and, maybe, just maybe, incite some interest from peers. While schools are somewhat hesitant, I am blessed with teachers who are willing to “try.”
But, why stop there? It’s almost as though iPods do everything but fix the kitchen sink. And we all know that individuals with ASDs are often fairly technologically savvy, so the jump is not a far one. Let’s use them for function as well as fun. Here are some thoughts:
1. We all know about the organizational woes of children on the spectrum. They hate to write, struggle to copy from the board, and forget to write down their assignments. Let’s use technology that they are on par, if not superior, to their peers in using? Most phones, iPods, and iPhones have calendar functions. Templates can be created that shorten the input process as well as personalize subjects, teachers, and schedules. Reminders and alarms allow for further personalization and help with long-term assignments and prioritization.
2. There is nothing more visual than an iPod or iPhone. I hear teachers and parents say, “Check your schedule” ad nauseum. Now that schedule is much “cooler” and, just maybe, more intuitive for our kids.
3. A former colleague talked to me about the use of video modeling with the iPod Nano. They recorded a child doing a particular sequence of events and imported it to his Nano. It now serves as a permanent, live reference that depicts him, not some random person, following a new routine. This usage could be extended infinitely. (Thanks, JoAnne.)
4. Simple little things could be stored in the iPod, too, such as locker combinations (regular and gym locker), phone numbers for emergencies, addresses, lunch account codes, etc.
This list is meager in comparison to how vast the possibilities are. I have taught many, many teens with ASD to text; why can’t we push further into something that has collateral benefits? Just knowing who Lady Gaga is is invaluable. Putting that knowledge to good use is the next step.