So, iPods. Once a rare and fancy technology seen only in the arms of the luckiest kids in school, now it is almost rare for a person not to have an iPod. But what makes them so great? Well, the obvious answer is that people like music, a lot. It’s great to have your own personal soundtrack accompanying you on your way to class, and they certainly make long car rides with the family less painful. So, they’re a great distraction, but they aren’t used for much besides simple entertainment, right? Well, maybe not. Perhaps we’re not giving iPods enough credit.
As it turns out, music affects the brain and can sometimes stimulate memories where other things can’t. The other week, my professor mentioned in passing that music is often the last thing to be forgotten in patients with Alzheimer’s. A woman who can’t recognize her own son’s face might still remember some of the lyrics to her favorite song.
This article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the benefits of creating personalized iPod playlists for patients suffering from dementia and other memory issues. The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function will even create the playlist for you if you don’t have the time. Click here to see the Institute’s “Top 10’s for Memory.” In this way, iPods are not being used as an escape or distraction from the real world, but rather as a method for becoming more engaged and aware of the world around you.
So the music on an iPod can sometimes improve memory or at least stimulate the brain where it wouldn’t otherwise be stimulated. But what about the apps? As I discussed in one of my earlier posts, there are now apps for virtually everything. However, not all are created for purely entertainment purposes.
The apps Dexteria and LetterReflex can help children improve small motor skills and learn the difference between “b’s” and “d’s” and other tricky letters. Dexteria offers hand and finger exercises to help steady the hand and improve finger control. LetterReflex uses exercises to help the user discriminate against reversed and flipped letters. Apps like this can also be used to help stroke victims and others with physical disabilities improve their motor skills and dexterity.
There are even apps for the iPod that can help with speech and communication. Proloquo2go offers those with autism and other social impairments a simple way to organize and communicate their thoughts. Using a system of pictures connected directly to words and ideas, sentences can be constructed and then transmitted into speech. The app may lead to new discoveries regarding the nature of autism and how to combat it, as well as offer an effective method of communication to those with severe speech impairments.
No longer are iPods being used solely for entertainment purposes. They can play a therapeutic role in multiple fields–memory, kinesthetic awareness, and speech among them. And their accessibility makes iPods an convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional therapy methods.