When I first saw the iPad, I must admit, I thought it was a completely unnecessary and awkward-looking device. It wasn’t until I heard how helpful it was for children with autism and other communication disorders that I understood how useful this technology could be. This makes complete sense, too; the iPad, which is simple enough for children to use, is also very appealing to the young ones who love to feel ‘adult’ by using new technology. The 8-year-old kids I worked with at a summer camp loved bringing their phones and showing me how grown-up they were, even though they could only use it to play games. We all know how effective the learning-based computer games, such as Leap-Frog and Mavis Beacon, are at keeping children’s attention while teaching. So why not transfer this idea to a device that is portable, like the game-boys children are so fond of, and with a touch screen, which allows for a more engaging, personal connection with the skills being learned in the games?
Just like the infamous iPhone apps, there are many iPad apps that help teach skills, such as reading and spelling, which is helpful to all children, but there are also apps that teach skills specific to the development of children with autism. One of these apps, Grace, teaches children how to put sentences together using images. iCommunicate and Stories2Learn are two apps that allow families to put together a story for their children to learn how to perform certain activities, act in different situations, and answer social questions. The apps are verbally interactive, as well; iConverse teaches skills using a voice-recording device, text-to-speech engine, and built-in sentences. These are just a few of the skills that I am sure many parents of children with autism would find extremely useful to be able to teach their children. It is also a bonus that these apps are in a game-type format that kids find fun, a great reinforcement for learning.
I think one of the most important aspects of helping children with autism learn new skills is the inclusion of the family in the process. I know families who have children with autism can spend a lot of time driving to appointments and getting services, and that many activities that may seem simple, take much longer. I feel sympathy for these families and it seems to me that the iPad apps could be a great help. It gives the children a way to teach themselves these new skills and gives the ever-busy parents a bit of a break, while still allowing them to be a part of the process by creating these stories that the children learn. With its verbal, visual and physically interactive qualities, the iPad has the ability to help develop numerous skills using a variety of teaching methods. C.A.R.D. is also looking at using this technology with Skills, a program that assesses a child’s development and teaches hundreds of skills where needed. It seems to me that with the continued development of these apps, iPads could potentially take the place of behavior therapists. More information about these iPad apps can be found at: http://www.gadgetsdna.com/10-revolutionary-ipad-apps-to-help-autistic-children/5522/ and information about the Skills program can be found at: http://centerforautism.com/Services/CARD_SKILLS.asp