A stay-at-home mom with a ten year old autistic son contacted us recently about our newly released app for the iPad, The Truly Great Noodle. She wished to remain anonymous, so we will call her Tess. Tess told us about a group on Facebook called A4cwsn (Apps for Children with Special Needs) who use apps for their autistic and special needs children and help raise money to purchase iPads for those who cannot afford it. Tess’s comments prompted us to look into the benefits of e-books and tablet computing for children with autism. Although the information is relatively limited at this point, we quickly realized that this has become a hot topic.
Just last week, the San Jose Mercury News published an article about the uses for tablet computing and apps to treat autism. Brandon Bailey wrote, “Parents and educators say the ease of use, visual impact and intuitive nature of a touch screen, combined with the portability and ‘cool factor’ of a tablet computer, have led to near-miraculous breakthroughs for children with a variety of disabilities.” 1
Tess concurred that, like many children with autism, her son is a visual learner. Much of what he has learned has come from technology-based activities. He uses the computer, plays educational games (Jumpstart), watches videos (Sesame Street), and enjoys internet-based activities. Tess’s son learned his ABC’s from a website called Starfall (www.Starfall.com). We asked Tess how her son utilizes e-books and the iPad for learning. “What is so fantastic about books for the iPad is that they are very visual and interactive. It is so motivating for him that he WANTS to listen over and over. He enjoys all the interactivity so very much.” Tess explained that the most important features for e-books on the iPad are the interactivity and the highlighted words to go along with the narration. She went on to say that, “I think he’s finally excited to be able to share in story time like other children, but in a way that’s tailor made for him.”
If you are looking for specific apps for your autistic child, Padgadget.com has featured apps for children with autism and other special needs. Tag “autism” and you will find several related apps. One example is a free customizable picture card learning system called See.Touch.Learn. by Brain Parade. Tracy is mom to an autistic son who blogs about book reviews. She published her list of best iPad apps for Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in August, 2010, as well as a Youtube video on the subject.
Because the iPad is a relatively new learning tool, there are no clear statistics to support its educational use for autistic children. However, the consensus seems to be that it is highly effective in gaining a child’s attention and that it does seem to make a difference in learning. Tess perfectly summed up our feelings on the matter: “I am so excited that there is finally a medium for these special little ones. They’ve waited long enough.”
1Bailey, Brandon. “Using touch screens and apps to treat autism.” Silicon Valley Mercury News. 18 Jul. 2011. http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_18478215 25 Jul. 2011.
For More Information About Autism:
- Autism Society is a good resource for general information on autism. Visit www.autism-society.org
- Behavioral Counseling & Research Center (BCRC) www.bcrc.com
Autism Teaching Tools:
- AutismPro provides a database of resources, lessons, and intervention strategies for teachers of students with autism. www.autismpro.com
- Autism Internet Modules (AIM) provides parents and professionals with a series of free online learning modules. www.autisminternetmodules.org
Author: Ande Anderson, Grids Interactive