As an Assistive Technology Specialist and Teacher of the Visually Impaired, I am regularly perusing apps geared towards students that are 0-7 years old developmentally. In order to ensure that I am using apps that are helping my young students with low vision increase the use of their functional vision skills, I have started rating each app using my own rating scale based on the functional vision skills all individuals with low vision need according to Low Vision Online.
According to Low Vision Online, these skills include:
- Awareness of attention
- Control of Eye Movements (tracking)
- Control of Eye Movements (scanning)
- Discrimination of Objects
- Discrimination of details to identify actions and match objects.
- Discrimination of details in picture
- Identification and perception of patterns, numbers and words
Based on the above criteria, I have been evaluating the app “ Elmo Loves ABCs".
The app is appropriate for kids as developmentally as young as 3 and kids as old as 8. The main page presents the alphabet arranged in a square formation around a middle screen where Elmo often makes an appearance in a variety of activities based on the letter the child is working on in the app. The user can trace all the letters of the alphabet and the complete the following activitities for each letter:
A. Watch other Sesame Street letters completing activities that start the with the focused letter (Example: Grover riding a bike).
B. Drawing objects that begin with their focused letter.
C. Uncover objects that starts with the focused letter in a virtual sensory bin.
D. There is also a feature for students who are beyond this phase of their literacy development focusing on identifying lower case letters.
Here is how I have rated Elmo Loves ABCS based on Lowvision.com’s visual skills:
Rating Scale: 5= Thoroughly integrates visual skills 4: Somewhat integrates visual skills 3: A few visual skills are present
2: Very few vision skills are present 1: no vision skills are present
Awareness of attention
1: This app is visually busy and complex. A young child learning to use his or her vision functionally would struggle to be able to see the important features on the menu screen, which on this app are the letters of the alphabet.
Control of Eye Movements (tracking)
1: There is no single moving object for a student with low vision to follow.
Control of Eye Movements (scanning)
2: Again because of the cluttered visual design of his app, it would be hard for a person with low vision to use this app to learn to systematically scan from left to right and top to bottom.
Discrimination of Objects
3: The letters of the alphabet the user is asked to find are very small and laid on a busy background. While this isn’t ideal for a young child with low vision learning the alphabet, this app does offer one feature that could help support learning to discriminate objects:
There is a feature within the each alphabet letter activity where the child has to uncover three familiar objects that begin with that particular letter, identify it and match it. This would be a great exercise for a child with higher level functional vision skills.
Discrimination of details to identify actions and match objects
3: There are plenty of opportunitities in the activity stated above for a child with higher level functional vision skills to practice this skill, particularly for matching pictures and objects and observing details. This would be a good part of the app to assist a child in learning to use low vision aides to access visual information.
Identification and perception of patterns, numbers and words
2: While there are some letters and words in this app, the visual clutter would makes it challenging for the user to discriminate the letters in the first place.
Discrimination of details in picture
3: There are ample opportunities for a child with low vision who can use a low vision tool to discriminate details in pictures using this app.
However, without a low vision tool, using this app to learn this visual skill would be very challenging.
My two cents
There are way better apps out there on the market that can help students develop their functional vision skills. However, this app does offer users with higher level functional vision skills some great opportunities to learn how to discriminate details and discern when they would need to use a low vision feature on the iPad.