Exercises with a tablet in practice An interview with a therapist
14 June 2014
Ewa Kochańska
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Interview with therapist Agnieszka Kolbiarz-Juszczak, who talks about how she implements tablet therapy in sessions with children.


We present a conversation with Agnieszka Kolbiarz-Juszczak, who conducts tablet-based therapy for children. Should you have any other questions or should you find any aspect of the practical use of thetablet and app particularly interesting, send us an e-mail at kontakt@www.dromnibus.com. We’ll be sure to publish the answers to your questions.

Where do you run your ‘Therapy With a Tablet’ classes?

Since January, I’ve worked at the Hippotherapy Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Children. There is no age or disability limit. We work with children with disorders from the autism spectrum, intellectual disabilities, and cerebral palsy. Our patients differ greatly in the level of skill and age: the youngest child is 5 years old, and the oldest is 18. Sessions are held one a week. Currently, we’re on the second round of sessions, conducted as part of the ‘Independent, Though Sometimes With Disabilities’ Programme. The therapy is based on mobile applications. Our goal is to develop deficit skills. For instance, if a child shows a delayed reaction to stimuli and performs tasks very slowly, but not because he is she is thinking about the answer, we play games based on reflexes, action games, games with time limits, or games that directly improve reaction time, such as clicking a button when a specific picture appears. The apps are selected depending on each child’s deficits. Not all the games we use are purely educational or therapeutic. The Polish market is lacking in this respect, and using English apps is often impossible in practice. The apps are also selected according to a child’s age and favourite activities. We never leave children alone with a tablet; instead, we take care to participate actively throughout the sessions. This allows us to use the app in a way that it was not designed to work, but that still fits the concept behind the therapy.

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What does such therapy involve? Can you give us a few examples, talk about the session plan?

The session plan depends on each child and the lead subject. We work based on areas provided in individual plans. I choose exercises according to the subject are to carry out. However, I always let the child play a given app or do other activity the child suggests as a reward or simply as break from exercises. For instance, a child who has difficulties with spatial relations would take part in the following activities: remembering the position of pictures on the board, copying a picture with building blocks, copying a particular arrangement of blocks on the board, drawing, and marking objects depending on their position. It is very important to know how often the child needs to take a break to keep up his or her interested in the exercises. After each game the child can play any app he or she wants for a given time.

How do the children react? What is the difference between traditional therapy and a tablet- based one?

The children enjoy working with the tablet very much. It’s a very attractive therapeutic aid for them, as it stimulated multiple senses at once. And most importantly, they treat as form of entertainment, rather than work or standard classes, which increases their motivation. They’re not fully aware that they’re learning. The main difference is in the interactivity. Every action on a child’s part, even a minimal one, causes a response in the game; the child often perceives this response through different modalities. The lack of interactivity is the most significant disadvantage of the traditional therapeutic aids. Other important aspects are the learnability of the task and limitations related to the ‘materiality’ of the therapeutic aid. We need to have many different, quickly rotated aids in order to be able to introduce new tasks. Preparing such sessions and rotating the aids takes a long time. So it is more cost-efficient to use tablets, which allow us to change games very quickly. Children notice this variety of activities and enjoy it.

Do parents also use tablets or applications to work with their children at home?

Certainly not all of them. There’s a large group of parents who ask us for advice or the names of apps to let their child continue the exercises at home. The parents state openly that since their children already use a tablet, it’s better that they benefit from it. In a way, this a way to give children their ‘homework’ :). The effects are clear, especially when the exercises address skills tied to the school curriculum. Another group of parents who appreciate the tablet, but prefer that their child not use it at home, for various reasons.

 

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Are people interested in your tablet-based therapy?

Yes, they are. More and more parents are looking for new forms of working with their children. Since tablets and other modern devices are a staple in children’s everyday life, parents want to learn how a tablet can benefit their children. This makes tablet-based therapy popular. Due to the growing interest, we going to have another of our therapists lead exercises with a tablet.

Do you think the tablet has brought anything new to therapy?

I think that the tablet, as a tool that provides variety in therapy, is a breakthrough on its own in our attitude to children. It allows us to conduct exercises anywhere and eliminates the need for other aids. This variety of possible settings for the exercises (at home, at the centre, or, e.g., in a hospital) makes it easier to generalise the skills we teach and helps children grow independent. I’m happy to share my thoughts on this form of therapy, and I do so whenever I can. We like to show the advantages of using a tablet, but let’s not forget about its potential drawbacks due to incorrectly conducted therapy. The tablet is not supposed to replace the therapist. It’s just another tool in the therapist’s repertoire that helps children develop in every area of human functioning. This can only be done if the therapist participates in the sessions actively and fully.

For more information, take a look at articles by psychologist and therapist Agnieszka Kolbiarz- Juszczak about the practical use and functionalities of DrOmnibus