When I was a therapist working with children with autism, one question that always ran through my mind was, “how do I make every activity a valuable teaching opportunity?” For me, the easy part of working with kids was the “work.” Sitting down with a child and running through a set of trials was straightforward. Discrete trial training (DTT) is structured, simple, and when done correctly, very effective. These trials help kids quickly acquire new skills and language in a very structured setting. The challenging and fun part of my job as a therapist was what happened in between those sets of trials.
When I started as a therapist many years ago, the reward (or reinforcer) for finishing activities was usually a preferred toy of some sort. Blocks, paper airplanes, and plastic dinosaurs are examples of the types of toys kids wanted back in the day. These activities were great because they offered a chance to interact with the child, work on appropriate play skills, and generalize the skills and language that the child had learned during those more structured trials.
However, as tablets and mobile phones increased in popularity and accessibility, these devices quickly became the preferred activity of many of the children I worked with. After completing an activity, kids wanted to play a game on the phone, take pictures with the camera, or watch a video on YouTube. While highly motivating for the child, time spent on the phone meant lost learning opportunities. A child playing on a tablet or phone doesn’t get the chance to socialize with someone else, practice play skills, or generalize the skills and language that he or she had learned.
This is the common perception but this doesn’t have to be the case.
While a child may lose the chance to work on some of the motor skills associated with building blocks or throwing a ball, the wide array of apps and games available provide many (if not more) learning opportunities as long as you know how to use what’s out there.
This blog will focus on finding and highlighting the ways existing apps can be leveraged to target many of the skills and language that are so important to generalize.
If you have an app that your child loves, send us an email at
We will take a look at the app and find new ways to use it to generalize skills and language.