I came across an interesting article about interactive reading and the learning potential of this expanding technology, particularly in classrooms for children with special needs. An ereading app, Mayan Quest Activity Book, designed for the Apple iPad, “assists children with hand-eye coordination, listening skills, visual perceptual skills and tracking, helps to increase attention span, improves reading comprehension and works to help children identify shapes and colors,” concepts commonly used in therapy for treating autistic children.  The app also provides options for various skill sets and levels of learning.

Children can listen to the story while tapping words to be read in any order, follow along as the text is underlined while being read to them, read without assistance, and engage with the interactive illustrations to provide further learning opportunities. The app also poses interactive questions. Designed by a stay-at-home dad, Norman Silva who has years of experience teaching children, we know that the book is designed with children in mind. It is also easily accessible to iPad users, costing $0.99 in the iTunes Store. 

The concept of enhanced eReading as a learning tool is not entirely new, however it is interesting that this particular program released in June 2011 has recently gained recognition in a specific area of educational focus. It is one of the enhanced reading book titles recommended by Autism Speaks and seems to stand apart from the rest with its hands-on audio, visual, and touch technology that contribute to a dynamic and well-rounded educational package. The app is under the Color With Leo brand and so it is recognized by parents and educators alike.

Autism disorders are characterized by varying abilities in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviours (www.autismspeaks.org). It seems as though Mayan Quest caters to each of these individual characteristics: interaction with a highly responsive technological format that speaks to the reader, opportunities to practice and refine motor skills, and a dynamic experience that facilitates repetitive behaviours and encourages curiosity and exploration. As outlined in the “What is Autism” section of the Autism Speaks website, “about 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world”. I believe that Mayan Quest is just that: a non-linear active reading experience that adapts to “atypical ways” of viewing the world and may serve to achieve higher levels of learning for young children with autism. I am curious to follow any further testing of this technology and the potential it holds for educating a diverse young readership.

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