Digital Skills Training

Family Fund are a national charity, so we give grants to families raising disabled and seriously ill children. We fund things like bedding, short breaks, washing machines tablet computers and particularly iPads. Family Fund’s Digital Skills Programme was set up about 18 months ago. We worked with Apple and other organisations to set up the Digital Skills Programme through which we could offer training specifically for families raising disabled and seriously ill children. Although the iPad contains some of the most advanced accessibility features many parents don’t know that they’re there and don’t know how to access them and if they do, don’t know how to make the most of them. The main objective of the Apple Education Trainer is to familiarise parents and users with the use of the device. My son has profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism and he’s at a very young developmental age. A few bits I’ve changed here today already – I didn’t know that you could zoom in or you could set your own hand controls, whether it’s two fingers or a pinch or a swipe. So that’s going to be really good, and I shall play with that when I get home. The iPad can support children in their development in a number of ways. For many parents, access to the camera is critical. We’ve had families where being able to use the camera to visualise some of the things that their children are going to encounter has been vital. There are many parents that use this to produce interactive books and social stories that prepare their children for weekend retreats and new schools or to familiarise themselves with new situations. Some of the outcomes that we’ve seen from the Digital Skills Programme have been amazing. I was with a family where the son was 15 years old but selectively mute and was able to have one of his first conversations in a long while by the pair of us typing what we wanted to say and having it read back, and this was something that then the family was able to apply on their devices and then also to communicate back to school with. we can see these huge advantages of the features such as voice over, which allows completely blind users to interact with the device in the same way as anybody else to the point where they can use the camera that camera will give them feedback on what they’re looking at, where that’s positioned in the frame, whether it’s in focus and quite often we encounter families that didn’t know that this feature existed and by turning it on it will create a transformational change in the way that they interact with others. My name is Jo and I have a seven-year-old daughter with Down’s syndrome. One of the things she struggles with particularly is writing, and I’ve learned how to make and edit movies, which will revolutionise the way we do homework. We’d hope that people would learn from the training that the iPad is a device that probably leads the field in terms of accessibility features, that they shouldn’t be scared of those features and that the device is something that can be adapted for their very particular needs. I’d also hope that they would discover that the device is very easy to operate and that they can actually keep up with their children. Ray was brilliant, can I take him home with me please? He’s made everything so simple and the fact that it’s been a short, free session that I can access in the middle of the day that works for me, and the school run and all the other things that we have to work around has been brilliant. I thought he was fantastic. He was very engaging, had all the answers for any questions we had and didn’t mind me interrupting him every five minutes to ask really stupid questions. He’s filled me with confidence I just want to get home and get on with it now and see what we can do. Seeing the benefits of the Digital Skills Programme is really fulfilling and it makes us want to get more and more people into the program because it really is amazing and it might be life-changing.

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