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Leap Frog Phonics for the low functioning child on the Autism Spectrum

Initially I purchased the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk as a Christmas present in 2000 for Nicholas, my high functioning child who was five at the time.

A week before Christmas Matthew had to be admitted to the Hospital during a Doctor visit for dehydration and malnutrition issues. The following day Nicholas and I went home to pick up some clothes, personal care items and a few toys to keep both kids occupied at the Hospital for a few days. I chose to bring the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk. Luckily there were store display batteries inserted so we did not have to locate a screwdriver and batteries while in the Pediatrics Ward. Do note eventually you will need three AAA batteries.

There is a high and low volume control, which is handy and located on the back near the battery compartment. The front side has the speaker to the left for the volume with the red mode selector next. The options are Letters, Letters Quiz, Phonics, Phonics Quiz, Spelling and Create-A-Word. When not in use the option furthest to the left is Off. There is a red HELP! button located at the right top part of the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk. To utilize the HELP! simply slide the mode selector to each option and press the HELP! button for instructions on the next step.

For example, under Letters the voice will tell you to press a letter to hear its name. If no response is done in a few seconds then she says, "bye for now". For Letters Quiz there will be a clue in the diagram box for you to watch the screen for the letter written and press that number.

There is also a blue handle that can slide in when not in use and easy to grip for a preschooler. The letters A-Z are in the colors yellow, blue, red and green. Next to the upper-case letter is the lower-case letters. Next to the letter S is a blue ERASE switch that works with the diagram box where you can write and watch letters being written. The manual describes this as the LCD box and then there is a red knob to press up for upper-case letters and down for lower-case letters.

The writing stylus is the same lines that Nicholas's homework had back in his Special Day Class while in Kindergarten, which is the grade he was in at the time of purchase. This is also the same type of format the Phonics video we have uses. This shows the letter formation with the dotted lines in the middle. The writing pencil is red with a yellow string attached. It never fails that the pencil is never placed back in the little groove under the screen. When Nicholas would carry around the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk this woudl come loose from the slot.

We would practice with the desk before doing the actual homework papers. Nicholas would press the letters and hear their sounds, which coincided with what he was learning in the classroom. You can also test the knowledge of the child by listening to the sound and trying to guess which letter that is. Next the student/pupil can write the letter in both Upper and Lower case.

Matthew was five at the time and liked to press the erase button and listen to the sound it made while watching it move up and down. Nicholas is left handed and never had any problems utilizing the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk.

If the answer chosen is wrong the response could be a silly sound and then the offer to press the HELP! button for further options. The question will be repeated and then tell you the correct answer. Leap Frog® will repeat the letter and offer praise when the correct selection is given.

The selections for three-letter words are again similar to the homework brought home from school like cat, dog or mix. Once you have written the three-letter word, then you press the letters to spell out the word. I like that steps are involved in the lessons. This helps in the learning process and the repetition of the same process.

The writing section is a great size measuring four inches wide and under two inches high. This encouraged Nicholas to to write smaller plus the dotted lines helped him know where the point is when starting each letter.

When the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk™ is not in use it will automatically shut-off. It can be cleaned off with a damp cloth, but never submerged in water or have a child with a drink close by when using the system.

When Nicholas moved on to other items the Desk became Matthew's learning toy. He was able to attend to task for several minutes before rejecting the Desk for a perferred stim. After a few years we gave it away with other toys. The Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk™ was a surprise hit that helped maintain what Nicholas had learned in school while we were at the Hospital, and over the holiday break. During the summer break we continued with the Create-A-Word section.

A perfect choice for a child in preschool or one who is entering Kindergarten in the fall. There is plenty to learn from letter recognition, pronouncing letters, writing upper and lower cased, practicing writing skills and learning new words.

For a winter, spring or summer vacation that requires a long drive the Leap Frog Phonics Writing Desk does not interrupt the driver and can reward the child with a learning experience.



This recent Christmas I purchased the Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set for Matthew, who is nonverbal at nine years of age. He was delighted with this present and has been laughing and smiling whenever we press one of the letters.

Once the contents are out of the box you will need a screwdriver to open the battery compartment on the back to insert 3 AAA batteries. You can register products at the website of www.leapfrog.com.

We placed the set directly on the refrigerator and immediately inserted an alphabet into the reader for instant feedback. The 26 letters are lined up in three rows on the refrigerator. The letters are easy to grip and snap into place in the reader spot instantly. It is a snug fit with all letters in a white background.

The letters are in an array of colors consisting of blue, green, red and yellow. The H and I are similar looking at first glance, but in different colors and the same with the N and Z. It took me a few seconds to get them sorted correctly and the Q was hard to spot also.

Matthew is able to remove a letter from the reader and place it on the refrigerator, although not back in the order of the Alphabet. There are two red buttons at the bottom of the blue base. The musical symbol plays an alphabet song, but will not play unless the red button beside it is switched from the off position. There are two spots it can move to, a low and high volume.

When Matthew is in the living room or bedroom I will use the high volume to draw him back into the kitchen. Once the off switch is turned to one of the volume options you will have to press the alphabet letter to hear the response.

This will be M - "M says Mmmm, M says Mmmm, every letter makes a sound, M says Mmmm. Matthew likes to press the button a few times so that it sounds like M, M, M, M and then he stops to let the music continue, like a rap tune. If you press the letter while the music is in process it will go back to the beginning. If you remove a letter the song will finish playing.

When using the A letter you will hear both ways that the A sounds. The box states the beginning age to be two. You can clean the letters in water, but do not submerge them. This works on hand-eye coordination, learning the letters and the sounds of each letter of the alphabet.

The set stays securely on the refrigerator and you have the option of making words with the letters on the refrigerator. Matthew enjoys listening to the music and sounds of the letters.




I noticed that there is another product that I have now placed on my wishlist to get for Matthew where you can insert three letters to form words. We are not at that level yet, but something to shoot for as a long term goal. I would also like to mention that there was a product Leap Frog Flying Friends that we had for a few years that Matthew got as a holiday gift also. That seems to have been discontinued, but if you find one it is worth checking out.



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