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News / November 3, 2010

Dental app helps children with disabilities

by Guy Hiscott

Going to the dentist can be stressful, especially for children with special needs.

Avril Webster, whose eldest son Stephen has a severe intellectual disability, has developed an iPhone and iPad app to help make dental visits easier for families and dentists.

All children like to know what is happening, but this is especially the case for children with autism and other learning disabilities.

The Going to the dentist app is based on the successful book of the same name, part of the Off we go! series.

Avril found that by using the Going to the dentist book to prepare Stephen at home and then bringing the book to the surgery, he was better able to manage.

What makes the Going to the dentist book different is that it is particularly focused on the needs of children with disabilities. The pictures are clear and uncluttered – many children with special needs have visual discrimination difficulties and cannot see what is happening in busy colourful pictures. Many children with special needs also have limited language and are visual learners, so the picture is all about communicating what is happening. It is presented in a 12-step sequence, along with practical language. The sequence shows what comes next, which helps keep children from getting anxious. There is no added imaginative story; the words used are kept to what the child can relate to. 


The iPhone and iPad apps take the book to the next level

The apps are practical and easy to use, and would appeal to any young child, as well as those with disabilities.

The touch screen and swipe functions make it easier for children with disabilities.

Features include narration in English and Spanish (you can also record your own narration), and the ability to colour in the pictures.

The iPad Apps have sound and animation to give the child a better idea of what to expect. Avril has added sound zones that include sounds of the dentist drill and suction.

Stephen was scared of going to the dentist, not only because it was a strange place but also because of the noises. Stephen, like all children on the autistic spectrum, has sensory processing disorder. This means he cannot push away external sounds and he hears some sounds much louder than we do. Can you imagine hearing the sound of a drill four times louder than we hear it? By using the Going to the dentist iPad app, Stephen could hear the sounds from the dentist’s surgery in advance and therefore he was not so scared. 

For a child with special needs, it is a great achievement to manage to sit in the waiting room and then sit up on the dentist’s chair for a check up. This was made possible for Stephen by the Off we go! Going to the dentist book and app.

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