The iPad and Autism

April 12, 2010  |  Social Media for Educators

Every so often, a story comes out that makes you realize technology really doesn’t deserve the bad rap it seems to get from some Baby Boomers.  Case in point?  An eye-opening article in The Globe and Mail today about the way teachers are using iPads to reach out to children with Autism.  The  hot new technology is making the classroom less stressful and more fun for both the teachers and the students.  Experts say it’s revolutionizing the way we communicate with kids living with developmental disabilities.  (More…)

Some parents of Autistic children are calling the iPad a “godsend”.  Why?  It allows them to load special applications which help non-verbal kids communicate with mom,  dad AND teacher.  For example, if an Autistic child can’t tell you where he or she wants to go shopping, and every mall you take them to isn’t the one they have in mind, you can imagine the frustration level.  Off the charts.  The “iConverse” app is just one of a number of assisted communication apps available for people with disabilities.  It lets you load pictures of your child’s favourite stores along with an audio track identifying them by name.  Now, all your son or daughter needs to do is touch the store they want.  Message sent.  Message received. Stress level?  Way WAY down.

Yes, technology has it’s cons.  But this must surely be one of its greatest pros.  ;-)

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  1. Thanks so much for your great feedback ;-) Really appreciate the link to iPad Apps for Autism, too. Will do my best to follow developments in social media and technology as they relate to Autism. Please keep checking in for more from time to time!

  2. I believe that this article is very eye opening and that there are many other great games out there that will definitely help autistic kids. The best Ipad Game for Autism would be the Proloquo2Go which is significantly better than iConverse, and also there are many other FREE ipad apps for autism.

    For a detailed List check out:
    Ipad Apps For Autism

    You have done a very good job illustrating how technology helps even those with disabilities!

    HAPPY 2011!

  3. Hi, Rhiannon… Thank-you so much for sharing your truly insightful comments with us. No one knows better than the parent of an autistic child exactly what challenges all of this technology presents. It really makes those of us who are not plugged in to the world of autism THINK about the things you as parents must face every day. Easy for us to think that the iPad is the cure-all, when in fact it may not necessarily be a Godsend for everyone. Really appreciate you educating us and opening our eyes to a different point of view. Thank-you!

  4. Hi Karen,

    While I find the iPad a good tool for those with autism who are nonverbal, I do not think it is a good tool for higher functioning children with autism. My son is higher functioning…He is five and was diagnosed at 2.5. With a lot of work, he went from nonverbal to more verbal. His greatest challenges are social transitions and sensory input. The transitioning from one activity to the next is the greatest challenge as often he gets “fixed” on a given task and needs a lot of prompting and cues to put one thing down and do the next thing. The iPad is like the worst thing for his challenge because HE CAN’T PUT IT DOWN! It has become an obsession for him, particularly SIM City. Even after putting his the iPad down, he continues to play out the Sims city in his other toys. So now he is “fixed” on this one thing!

    I have taken of the Sims but that was difficult to do since he is already hooked –and therein lies the problem. By the time a child with autism plays with something that feeds into sensory input in the wrong way, it is really hard to “unwire” them from it. And this kind of fixation happens pretty quickly I’m afraid. Just some thoughts…

  5. Al… Great to get your comment. If you take a read through the article in the Globe (see it under “Twitter Updates” on the right hand side of this page), you’ll find out more about how enthusiastic families are about the iPad technology. They say that some communication devices can actually cost as much as $10,000., and that for the price, the iPad is a wonderful alternative. None of us can imagine what it must be like to be held prisoner in our bodies like your brother. Wouldn’t it be great if the iPad could bring him a little bit of freedom?
    Let us know what happens! And thanks again for your comment!

  6. Thanks for this Karen. My brother has ALS and has lost his ability to speak at all. He has a communication device he types on that speaks for him, but it is very cumbersome and not very reactive. The fact that he only has partial use of one hand now, and zero use of the other just heightens the problem. I know from my days developing electronic games that this is very dated technology.
    The iPad appears to be a great tool that may assist him in communicating. ALS is an awful disease. It takes away a persons ability to function or communicate, while their mind remains intact. It is like being trapped in a prison, and this may be something to alleviate some of the difficulty and provide some hope for those suffering from ALS.
    I will definitely check out the iPad for him. Thanks:)

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