Using iPads with PMLD Learners

February 10, 2011

We are very fortunate to have the opportuntity (and funds) to buy new technology, such as the iPads, to trial at our partnership schools. It became clear early on that these would be great tools for supporting the students at the special schools we work with, as the large touch interface means that they are accessible to a large number of pupils with physical and learning disabilities.

The first project involved using the iPads with a class of pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD). Some pupils are in wheelchairs, sometimes with visual impairment and poor motor skills. Many of them needed one-to-one help with the iPads, mainly to stop them being chewed or thrown on the floor, so some kind of clamp to secure them to the table would be useful in future. Here is a list of the apps we used (we tried to use free ones where possible, or as cheap as possible):

Talking Carl £0.59 – is one of a number of “Talking” apps. It will pick up any sound through the microphone and Carl will repeat (in a higher pitched voice). Even non-verbal students enjoyed this, as he repeats any sounds.  In addition you can tickle, poke and pinch him and he reacts appropriately – which the pupils love.

Other popular talking apps inclued Talking Tom, Talking Rex and Talking Roby.

Magic Piano £0.59 – This has different modes, from a black screen where you can play notes anywhere on it, to a spiral keyboard. This was great for the visually impaired students, and those without good motor skills, and it didn’t matter where on the screen they pressed.

Other good musical apps include Shaker, iXylophone, Percussive Free, Beatwave and iSteelPan.

Pocket Pond free – I love this app, it’s so realistic and relaxing. Make ripples in the water, scare or feed the fish, add dragonflies.



Gravitarium £0.59 – Touch the screen and the stars gravitate towards the point of contact, creating fabulous patterns. This initially looked quite relaxing but not that visually exciting, but it is accompanied by music, and more importantly, the whole screen vibrates with the sound. Some pupils really liked this feeling and even put their faces on the screen to feel the vibrations better.

Other cause and effect type apps: Art of Glow (no sound, limited number of patterns at any one time), Galactica HD (similar to Gravitarium) , Tesla Toy (no sound) and I love fireworks lite (nice and noisy).

The main problem with the iPads was that most apps have buttons in the corners that bring up menus or links to an upgrade, and the pupils invariably stumble across these. In addition there is no way to ‘lock’ an app, so that the pupil can’t come out of it (either intentionally or by mistake). Having said that, they were very popular with the students, and it gave them an opportunity for independent choice and exploration.

We have also lent out a couple of iPads to two schools, to trial the use of the communication aid app, Proloquo2Go. At £109.99 this is obviously not cheap, particularly on top of purchasing the iPad itself, but it comes out quite favourably in comparison to other specific communication aids. A particularly attractive aspect of using this app on the iPad is that the student is using a mainstream device rather than something that marks them out as being different to other young people. I’ll write another blog post once we receive some feedback as to the success of the app and device.