Many use iPads for daily activities such as scheduling, emailing, web surfing, watching videos, and gaming, but autism classrooms are finding that the iPad can be used for so much more. This revolutionary Apple gadget has been hailed as a solution that changes the lives of autistic children by helping them learn quickly and communicate more effectively.
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects the development of a person’s communication and social interaction skills and affects as many as 1 in 110 children in the US (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). While there is no cure, educators, parents, and app developers have found that the iPad has greatly accelerated the ability of autistic children to adjust to their surroundings. Many iPad programs have been developed to target specific skills: as a means of communicating for those who have problems with speech or language delays, learning how to handle confusing and stressful social situations, and even developing fine motor skills to promote more advanced functions such as writing.
A portion of the iPad 2 keynote highlighted the benefits of iPads for autistic children. In a “Year of the iPad” video, Howard Shane, PhD (Director, Center for Communication Enhancement – Children’s Hospital Boston) says that the iPad is “offering a tool that improves the potential of a person with autism. It gives them more opportunities to be better communicators, better understanders, better learners. The iPad is clearly the next step. It’s a game-changer.” You can watch the video here.
Also featured in the video are Shannon Des Roches Rosa and her autistic son, Leo. They have become some of the biggest champions and cheerleaders for the use of the iPad in the classroom. She says that being engaged is not something that comes naturally to autistic children, but the iPad has helped to solve that with her son. “With the iPad, it makes him happy and independent and he didn’t have that ability before… He doesn’t need me. I don’t want him to have to need me all the time.” Ms. Rosa runs her own blog, Squidalicious, and started a Google docs site with apps that she has reviewed, recommended, and organized into categories including art, games, geography, language, puzzles, math, science, and music. Her recommendations include Injini, Angry Birds, iCommunicate, Zen Brush, Moozart, and many more.
With the power to change so many lives, the iPad truly is what Steve Jobs called a “magical device.”