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Special Needs and Learning Difficulties

How young is too young for my child with special needs to start using computers or tablets?

For optimal development, all kids need lots of interaction with caregivers and the ability to explore their worlds with their senses. That said, there are no set rules about what age is too young for kids with special needs to start using technology. A good rule of thumb is that the younger the child and the greater the gap between his or her physical or social development and most typical kids, the more time and support he or she will need in real-world exploration and interaction with people. Engaging with your child while using technology -- and investing in sturdy device cases -- helps to maximize the benefits and minimize frustration.

There are many apps and programs designed to engage kids, boost learning, and aid in developmental milestones. In general, music and talking books are good bets to start kids out at an early age, because they provide an opportunity to see and hear increasing visual and auditory skills. A few apps to try:

  • Pianoball - Fun With Learning, (iOS). Great for small fingers; introduces kids to sounds and colors using an interactive piano.
  • Pat the Bunny (iOS). The classic book that's been turned into an interactive app helps toddlers follow directions.
  • Animal Book (Android). Helps preschool kids learn and identify animals.

Vicki Windman and Kelly Priest contributed to this article.