By Joan Tanenhaus, CCC, SP&A

How many times do young children, and especially those with special needs, hear things like this: "No, don't do that", "That's the wrong way", "Do it this way", "You're too little to do that". Probably many times, but we can help so that they don't hear it at the computer!

When playing at the computer with young children with special needs, one of the best approaches is to use software that is errorless. That means that no matter what the children do, there are no right or wrong answers. Exploration and trial and error are the learning styles that are rewarded, with fun noises, humorous animations, great graphics, lots of music and natural sounding speech. All kinds of learning goes on and there just are no things to do wrong!

One type of errorless program is what we call "Cause and Effect"- that just means the child does something on the computer (presses keys, touches a Touch Window, hits a switch, clicks the mouse button) and something happens- a picture appears, a picture animates, an action occurs. Press again and something else happens. Programs such as "Jump Start Baby" and "Sesame Street Baby" provide this kind of experience.

Another type of errorless program is open-ended and exploratory. In these, there are still no right or wrong answers, but there are choices to make. Children get an opportunity to see that they can make choices and be successful. These programs are excellent for language development, eye-hand coordination, figure-background, reading comprehension, and much more. Programs such as the electronic storybooks provide this kind of experience.

A third group of (almost) errorless programs are the "press any letter"/ "press any number" programs. These include programs like "Stickybear Early Learning", and selected activities in "Bailey's Book House" and "Millie's Math House".

If your children are young and/or unable to use the standard mouse or keyboard because of physical, perceptual or cognitive problems, there are many kinds of adaptive equipment available to help them access the computer, both at home and at school. In this way, even at a young age, the unique qualities of the computer can be used to enhance their self-esteem and self-concept, by providing them with control, success and power. And at the same time, they will be having fun and learning!

The following programs are errorless, press/any key programs and can also be used with a computer switch interface. These programs are commercially available and are designated for children ages 1 to years. Some programs are available in the Marketplace or through the Affiliate Program with

Jump Start Baby (Knowledge Adventure)
Sesame Street Baby and Me (The Learning Company)
Jump Start Toddler New Version (Knowledge Adventure)
Reader Rabbit Toddler and Reader Rabbit Playtime with Baby (The Learning Company)
Disney Winnie The Pooh Toddler (Disney)
Disney Mickey mouse Toddler (Disney)
Fisher Price Ready for School Toddler (Knowledge Adventure)
Fisher Price Little People Discovery Farm (Knowledge Adventure)
Fisher Price My Very first Little People Playhouse (Knowledge Adventure)
Little Bear Toddler (Mattel)
Dr. Seuss Toddler (Learning Company)
Fisher Price Ready for Preschool (Knowledge Adventure)

Electronic Storybooks –open-ended and exploratory, choice making, but no right or wrong answers:

Living Books (Broderbund-now, The Learning Company)
Just Grandma and Me
Dr. Suess’ ABC
Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham
Arthur’s Birthday
Little Monster At School
Disney Animated Storybooks – Appropriate for ages 4-10
101 Dalmations
Winnie The Pooh
Ariel Story Studio

Other Press Any Letter/Press Any Number activities can be found in:

Millie’s Math House (Edmark)
Bailey’s Book House (Edmark)
Stickybear ABC Deluxe (Optimum)

Joan Tanenhaus, CCC-SP & A, is an Assistive Technology/Computer Consultant and Speech-Language Pathologist in New York. She is a specialist in using the computer to enhance the language and learning in children with disabilities. Ms. Tanenhaus is a nationally recognized expert in the field of computer technology for children with special needs, and a distinguished member of our Professional Advisory Board. She can be contacted by e-mail at:

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