What's the best way to configure my device to make it more usable for my child with special needs?

Making your device work for your kid may take some experimentation. Keep in mind that everything you try can be changed back to the default setting, so don't be afraid to evaluate different configurations. And remember, although this may be a new world and language to you, kids typically take to tech devices faster than parents, so let them test things out. 

As you're learning, check the website for your device or YouTube for tutorials to help you navigate and learn about the variety of options for your device.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Accessibility settings. Set up the accessibility features on your device to accommodate your child's needs. (YouTube has lots of lessons on these features, too.) Learn more about the individual accessibility features available on Android and iOS.
  • Enable restrictions (iOS). This lets parents set a passcode that blocks access to different features including the Safari browser, the camera, FaceTime, the iTunes Store, the iBooks Store, in-app purchases, Siri, and more.
  • Restricted profiles (Android). This lets you set up individual user profiles, restricting or allowing access to different features for different people.
  • Lock rotation (most devices). Allows you to view your device only in portrait or landscape mode and can reduce frustration.
  • Mute. If your child is noise-sensitive, you can mute the volume.
  • Keyguards. These clear or colored plastic overlays have openings for each icon on the screen of a communication app such as Proloquo2go. These are helpful for kids who may have difficulty with motor skills. Colored keyguards are available for kids with low vision. You can order customized keyguards for different devices and apps.
  • Limit options. Try not to overload your child's device with too many apps. On iOS devices, Simple Finder displays only three folders. In Android's restricted user profile, you can allow access to a small number of apps.
  • Organize apps. To help your child stay organized, both iOS and Android let you add apps into separate folders and label them, for example, as games, books, or math.

Vicki Windman contributed to this article.

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