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Civic Impact

iPads, babies and free apps: winning therapy from the Early Learning Institute

It's hard to imagine an eight-month-old baby doing more than drooling and banging on an iPad, but The Early Learning Institute has discovered that kids this young can benefit from app-based therapies -- and so can their parents.
The Institute got a grant from the Verizon Foundation to buy 10 iPads to pilot a study of occupational, physical, speech and developmental therapies used with the 1,100 kids in their Early Intervention Program, which treats children experiencing developmental delays from birth to three in Allegheny and Washington counties. The idea is to help them achieve normal developmental milestones.
As a result, says Kara Rutowski, executive director of The Early Learning Institute, the kids have increased their vocabularies, learned to take turns, improved their balance, learned to make good decisions, increased their attention spans and expanded their abilities to express and understand language.
They've also to follow directions, match items, answer yes or no questions and identify family members, objects, colors and pictures. The eight-month-old is learning fine motor skills, to improve grasping and the use one finger at a time and other skills that will prepare this child to write, color, cut and perform other pre-school tasks.
The program uses mostly free apps so that each child's parents can use them at home to reinforce a kid's goals. Parents can also take their own smart phone or iPad in to the Institute between sessions to practice with the therapists. In addition, the Institute uses iPad learning for babies and toddlers in its socialization group, the Social Butterflies program.
"It's never too early to work on these skills," Rutowski says. "The beauty of it is, children are having fun. They don't realize they are working while they are using these things."
Do Good:
Searching for additional ways to help kids with special learning needs? Volunteer at the Children's Institute.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kara Rutowski, The Early Learning Institute
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