What’s 9.5 inches high, 7.5 inches wide, 0.5 inches thick and weighs 1.5 pounds? It may be a connection to the world for many children on the autism spectrum. I’m talking about the ipad.
We have known for years that pictures are a way to help children communicate who are on the autism spectrum. In the mid 1980’s, Andrew Bondy, Ph.D. and Lori Frost, M.S. developed the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) program which has become a standard for people around the world who wanted a structured and sequential program for helping nonverbal children communicate.
In addition, there is a whole discipline of professionals and technology companies who have worked in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (AAC) for years, developing modes of communication for those who did not have speech. Besides the AAC link that I have provided here to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and the respective links on their page, you may also find it helpful to visit the Augmentative & Alternative Communication Centers site with numerous links to other resources if you are interest in this topic.
What used to take so much time and so much money seems to have just gotten significantly easier and more affordable with the ipad. Now, having said that, if you don’t have US$499-$829 (and many families do not), then claiming that this is an affordable option may seem frustrating to some. However, in the larger picture of available communication devices and comparing their size, ease of use, picture quality, portability, and other factors that can surely be considered, the ipad is remarkable.
There are a number of stories beginning to emerge from people who are using the ipad with children on the spectrum. The ipads uses are only beginning to emerge: helping people to communicate their wants and needs, enjoying their humor that may have gone unnoticed before, scheduling their days or events within a day and helping them learn. These are only a few of the ways people are sharing their inspiring stores about how they have used the ipad. It will be interesting to see what the future brings in terms of how the ipad gets used.
Applications don’t have to be specific for autism to be beneficial. Use whatever interests your child. And if your child is verbal and the ipads’ use as a communication device is not necessary, then there are a number of things that it can do to engage your child in subjects of interest and social interactions. But that’s another blog entirely…