Guided Access in iOS 6

Improving fine motor control and having a blast

My son is autistic. Trying to explain what this means is very difficult. His autism means that at the age of four, among many many other things, he has no language, behaves very unpredictably and struggles with his fine motor skills. He is also the worlds biggest fan of Sound Blaster on the iPad.

A typical session finds him constantly distracted by three things:

1. The home button. It’s tactile and tempting and he just cant resist its constant allure.

2. Inadvertant use of multi-touch gestures or “fat fingers”. This always ends up throwing him out of the app.

3. On the iPhone, the Ad banner gets mistakenly hit. Again, taking him away from the action.

It is remarkable that for a boy who could not even understand his own name a few months ago, he is still able to navigate back to the app from any of these eventualities. This is because he knows that the home button will get him back to a known location, from which he can navigate back to the app.

One button.

Genius.

My wife is a teacher. She teaches small children of about 6 years of age and is just starting to use the iPad in the classroom. Trying to keep kids engaged on one task and ensuring they dont change all your settings when your back is turned is an issue all teaches and parents have to contend with.

With Apples latest update to iOS these are problems that can now be addressed. iOS 6, launching in just a couple of months, has a new feature called guided access. This lets you disable physical buttons, such as the home button, lock out certain areas of the screen, thus disabling input and even prohibit activation of the devices motion sensors.

Such features ensure that teachers, parents and supervisors have a way to keep a kids focus inside of the app…or even on just a specific part of an app. For my 8-bit fanboy son this means that we can prevent him being thrown out of his favorite app in all three of the situations outlined above.

No doubt this will also prove to be a fantastic feature for restaurants (menus), kiosks (tourist information), display-only setups (show rooms) and various other task centric scenarios.

Fo me, this means the iPad will continue to be a useful learning device for my son and hopefully my home button might last that little bit longer before giving up the ghost.