Gloria: More on Using the Ipad as an Assessment Tool

11/08/2012 13:50

This blog is a follow-up to my previous one about using the iPad for informal assessments with young children with multiple disabilities. Here I would like to describe in more detail the different behaviors that can be assessed formally or informally when using the iPad.

Last week I attended a presentation on some new research findings comparing the effectiveness of the iPad with the light box for children with special needs from birth to three years of age.  This research project is being led by Laura Campaña, M.A. director of the Infant & Early Childhood Program at Junior Blind of America (JBA). In this study they observed the following behaviors: length of engagement, visual attentiveness, reaching, activation, communication and the interaction between adult and child. These behaviors will refine our focus when we informally or formally assess a child using an iPad and are described below:

1. Length of engagement. This would be how long the child stays interested in the iPad. I believe this aspect is important because many of our students have short attention spans, and it would be important to see how long they can stay with the iPad even when the apps change. For a more accurate evaluation, the time a child takes for a brief break and then comes back to the iPad should still count as part of the initial engagement. The reason is that the child may need this rest in order to continue to be interactive.

2. Visual attentiveness.  This would be the specific behaviors of their visual engagement. Some of the observations might include: 1) How long does the child visually attend to the screen?   2) Does the child track items that move on the screen? 3) Does the youngster visually target any items on the screen that do not move? 4) What kind of visuals does the child pay more attention to?

3. Reaching. This includes when the child not only looks at but also touches the screen. Does the child independently reach for the screen? Does the child need encouragement at the beginning and then initiate this behavior on their own? What kind of apps interest the child enough to reach for the screen?

4. Activation. This would be how the child is introduced to the apps and how the child activates and uses the app. To assess this I would follow the sequence that Cristi Saylor and I wrote for this purpose in an article for the CDBS newsletter at

5. Communication. This would be how the child presents pre-intentional behaviors and intentional communication. As defined by the JBA research mentioned earlier, the use of the iPad may increase the child’s body movements, the production of actual sounds, vowel sounds, or clear words. (A resource to help better understand the difference between pre-intentional behaviors and intentional communication is "The Seven Levels of Communication" by Charity Rowland for the Communication Matrix at: .)

6. Interaction between child and adult when using the iPad. This would be observing the quality of the interaction between child and adult. For example, can the child focus their attention on both the iPad and the adult or does the child only respond to the iPad, what approaches does the adult use to engage the child with the iPad, etc.

If some readers wish to add other items that they may want to observe when a young child uses the iPad, please add them to the comments box. 



Topic: Gloria: More on Using the Ipad as an Assessment Tool

Date 11/10/2012

By Janice Myck-Wayne

Subject iPad assessemnt


Thank you for posting this information. I am going to share it with my students in our assessment class. Your ideas on how to use the iPad in assessing children with multiple-disabilities are very valuable.