Sesame Street Workshop continually produces apps that quickly become classics, and are in every therapist’s toolbox. Two standard apps are Cookie Monster Calls and Elmo Calls. Whenever I am trying to engage an emergent learner in reciprocal play, I have used these two apps, and continue to use them on a nearly daily basis. They never fail to get engagement and when kids share the experience with a facilitator – whether it be a nurse, teacher, or therapist it is SPECTACULAR! So, what makes these apps so cool?
Inside Elmo Calls
First and foremost is that the demand for engagement is equivalent to the developmental level of the child playing. So many times, people expect young children to jump and hurdle forth with concepts and performance when they are not developmentally ready. These little apps only ask for inputting the initiation phase of conversation which is equivalent to basic cause and effect play or the beginning requirement for using a switch. That is square one in which to build a foundation for further communication. There is no demand for more as Cookie or Elmo fill in the gaps with their classic witty repartee. One of the best aspects of these two apps is that a child can see him/herself in a little square in the corner – somewhat like Facetime or Skype. This little addition puts the child directly into the conversation. It not only sets them up as – a priority-1 in a communicational volley but also makes it more real by blurring that line between fantasy and real-life interactions. AND just like Mom or Dad, Cookie and Elmo do leave voicemails. It really comes down to feeling acknowledged as a contributor to a conversation. One of my fondest memories of using these apps is a little boy who had never been outside a hospital or residential environment. He was on a ventilator and could not breathe on his own or speak. He could observe staff and families on the phone and desperately wanted to take part in this kind of activity. When he heard the phone ring on the app and answered it, saw himself in the corner of the iPad talking with Elmo, it was truly magic. There are only a few responses from the characters, but it has never gotten old. Most kids love the predictability and learn the sequencing of a phone call from the repetition. Sesame Street Workshop has always maintained the highest standards in respecting a child’s intelligence and belief in their abilities to respond and learn. And that is why I return to Sesame Street again and again.
Pairing Bluebee with these apps can either be done through the Bluetooth speaker embedded in a Bluebee Pal or to not use the speaker at all. Bluebee can simply bear witness to a child’s popularity of receiving a call from Elmo or Cookie. And how grand is that?