iPad + autism + communication =

Recent research suggests that children with autism have a very strong interest in the use of iPads. They work like a computer, which is predictable. Templin Grandin serves as one of the most accurate ‘windows’ into the world of autism. Identified with autism as a child, she has become a leading advocate for autistic communities and has been a symbol of hope for parents who have autistic children. Temple Grandin says, “Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures” (1995). She shares how she processes more effectively in pictures and suggests that other children with autism likely do too. The iPad is a small computer with pictures and icons that moves with the touch of a finger.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the iPad for Children with Autism

ipad blog image

As Lesley Stahl reports, touch-screen app are giving autistic people new ways to express themselves, some for the first time (2014). She adds that parents are hailing the technology as a breakthrough (2014). The use of iPads in the community is also increasing communication skills. When ten students were placed in community employment settings, nine out of ten individuals reported being understood every time they attempted to communicate with their iPad (Price, 2014).

The iPad is a tool to support communication, however, it is not a cure for autism. The iPad cannot be the only source for learning and communicating. A structured school environment, collaborative therapists and a family that actively participates in the child’s learning are very important and play an equally significant role.  Providing the autistic child with opportunities to experience practical, meaningful learning should be provided with and without technology.

Temple Grandin says, “The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things” (1995).

For a child with autism, there must be a balance with all accessible tools and strategies in order to facilitate the most functional communication and most meaningful interaction possible.

For more information….

Grandin, T. (1995). Thinking in pictures: My life with autism (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday.

Kagohara, D. M., van der Meer, L., Ramdoss, S., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., Davis, T. N., Sigafoos, J. (2013). Using iPods[R] and iPads[R] in Teaching Programs for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Systematic Review. Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal34(1), 147–156.

Palmer, R. (2013). Accessibility: The Top 10 iPad Apps for Special Education. T.H.E. Journal,40(6), 10–13.

Price, A. (2014). Autism and iPads. Teacher Librarian41(3), 40–41.

Stahl, Lesley (Correspondent). (2012, May 30). [Apps for autism: communicating on the iPAd] CBS: 60 Minutes. Video retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/apps-for-autism-communicating-on-the-ipad-30-05-2012/5/


Our Special 21st Century Thinkers

The use of the iPad for children with special needs is being experienced around the world. The apps are endless and new apps are being developed at 20,000 per month. The student’s access for developing communication, social and academic skills are available in a new way with the use of the iPad. When we think of 21st century learners, it includes more than our general education students. It’s about all of our students learning with technology and contributing to society to the best of their ability. Our children with special needs are part of that dynamic contribution.