Children’s success stories: thanks to the ABA DrOmnibus app, autistic Anthony is learning to control his behavior.
Let’s start with a recap of how Antoś’s began his adventure with a tablet. Me and his mother told him that he would be given a tablet with educational games. Because it had to take some time before the tablet arrived, he was getting impatient. He began asking questions, which he had almost never done before, at least at school. He asked me every day if the tablet was there yet. At first, Antoś’s speech was very unclear. He couldn’t understand why the tablet hadn’t arrived yet, though he never got angry about it. I was surprised.
I was preparing him for the additional rules that he’d have to follow once he got the tablet. Antoś has problems with his behaviour. He’s sometimes aggressive towards others, both children and adults, trying to enforce things by throwing himself on the ground, running away from the desk at school or screaming. We drafted a simple and easy-to-understand contract together using icons: a well-behaved Antoś equalled an orange smiling face, while a misbehaving Antoś equalled a dark and sad face, which meant that he wouldn’t be allowed to use the tablet. We also established how long he’s going to be allowed to play: no more than 10–15 minutes during the sessions at schools. We both signed the contract. I also prepared a notebook in which Antoś would get the appropriate icon at the end of each day.
The long-awaited moment came: the tablet arrived. Antoś was very shy and very happy at the same time. We began using the app every day. The boy liked playing Colours and Shapes very much. It turned out that he had slight problems with these particular games.
For instance, he couldn’t recognise purple or an oval shape, or tell the difference between similar colours, such as red and raspberry. He figured out how the games work fairly quickly, although the first transition from the learning stage to the improvement stage gave him trouble because he tried to find only one object at first, like in the learning stage. However, he worked out that there were multiple pictures that he was supposed to find and associate with the name. Antoś was delighted to discover that correct answers reward him with short, extra games. He tried out all of these games, but one is his favourite. He chooses it almost always and enjoys it very much, especially since I now enjoy it myself as well. He comments on the situation, repeating ‘Always the same thing’ when he plays the extra game. Sometimes, he says it in the form of a question. He teases me – even when I suggest playing some other game, he chooses his favourite one anyway.
The boy plays one session at school and another one, which usually continues the subject from the school, at home He’s gotten used to the rhythm.
The greatest advantage of taking part in DrOmnibus’s project is the fact that Antoś is learning to control his behaviour so that he can use the tablet. Since the project began (a few weeks ago), his behaviour has improved very much.
He tries to listen to what he’s told, though he did get aggressive three times at school when he hit other students. As we had agreed, he wasn’t allowed to use the app on those occasions, neither at school nor at home. He took it to heart. The next day after each episode, he behaved practically perfectly. You could say Antoś’s behaviour is changing for the better – only three aggressive episodes happened within a few weeks that got him the dark faces. Before that, he could have three such episodes… in a day. It’s an incredible change! The day-care room staff have noticed it, too: Antoś now misbehaves only sporadically when he’s there. He also makes the effort to work along with his class, is more and more engaged in the tasks he is given and rarely runs away from the desk during the lessons that I’m present at.
Let us go back to the games. The games concern general knowledge – colours, shapes, parts of the body, fruits, vegetables and other subjects. All of these subjects we work on, and we’re sometimes able to combine them with the topic of the lesson. For instance, if a lesson was about occupations, we continued that topic by playing the Occupations game. We did the same with the Animals game. Antoś also makes the effort to listen attentively to the instructions he’s given in the games.
My greatest hope about Antoś’s development lies in the game about recognising emotions. After some initial trouble with distinguishing some emotions (Antoś had difficulty recognizing faces that showed fear or disgust), he learned them quickly. We’re now going to move on to recognising all the emotions he has learned in real situations.
Our sessions take up to 10 minutes on average, or several more if Antoś is especially motivated. We try to agree on what we’re going to play beforehand. Sometimes, the boy is very keen on playing a particular game. When we’re finished, he sometimes asks to play more, and some other times, he wants to finish on his own. I can’t prolong the sessions to avoid it having a negative effect on the boy. The tablet with the mobile app is one of the tools that support Antoś’s development and therapy. While the device is there to help him, it cannot substitute other forms of work – the tablet is to support the work of his teachers, therapist and parents, with whom he establishes relationships.
The tablet with the DrOmnibus’s mobile app is a great motivation for Antoś to improve his behaviour – he takes the effort to behave – and to learn – the boy learns the material at hand more fully, as well as shows familiarity with information that he hasn’t shown before. The games evoke positive emotions and provoke Antoś to speak up. Sometimes when the boy is playing, he comments on his actions out loud, saying for instance whether he knew the correct answer or made a mistake. We keep the tablet in at the secretary’s office at school. Antoś has to pick it up and return it himself, which makes him face a social situation: he tries to greet the staff at the office and thank them for keeping the tablet. He sometimes adds something spontaneously. For instance, the other day he informed the staff that we had had trouble with Internet connection by saying, all agitated, ‘There’s no Internet!’.
To be continued.