What Makes the iPad So Useful with Autism?

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A friend of mine sent me a link to Geekdad's blog on Wired.com to his post about how the iPad is not the miracle device for Autism. Apparently, he is contesting the perception that all a child with Autism needs is an iPad, and they will immediately start improving in their communication.  And to a certain extent he is right, the device, alone and without the right apps or without knowing how to utilize it properly, is not a replacement for effort and work with your child. But you might ask, if you are one of the few that frequent my blog, why I am so excited about the iPad and it's work with Autistic children?  Let me tell you.


  1. Cost:  The first reason is cost.  The iPad and iPod Touch, as compared to other devices out there, is very affordable.  Now, I know that is kind of a loaded word, "affordable", but most touch screen communication devices out there are thousands of dollars.  $500.00 makes that look very affordable indeed.  They are also surprisingly robust, even without a case and screen protector.  Given a choice, the iPad is the more affordable device, and the iPod Touch doubly so. Now, that being said, there are less expensive communication devices that fall in at less than $100.00.  They are made of plastic, use paper inserts for pictures, and require someone to record the meaning of each picture.  But there are other reasons.
  2. Versatility:  Most communication devices, including the inexpensive plastic devices, are single purpose: they just provide words when pictures are pushed.  The iPad, on the other hand, provides so much more.  Specific skills can be targeted with additional applications, and new applications for each skill are being developed every day.  Many have free trial versions, and most fall within less than $5.00 (with the exception of the communication apps).  And this brings us to the next point:
  3. All About the Apps:  The iPad has thousands of apps, and (at my last count), over 300 of them are for Autism.  Calendar apps that help children visualize their schedule, communication apps that help children talk when they are non-verbal, and games that teach them their letters, numbers, math, spelling, etc.  There are so many tools out there in the apps, a parent or Special Education teacher can feel comfortable in their investment.


But how do you use these apps?  How do you target your support of your child with Autism with an iPad?  Talk with your child's teacher and find out what they would recommend.  They already know where your child needs to focus their efforts, and can guide you in the general direction.  You can then use the iPad as a tool to help your child achieve the goals you and the teacher have set.  That's the real power of the iPad.  It has the potential to be any tool you need it to be, because the application support is there, and it's so easy to use.

So, yes, it is important to realize the nature of the iPad as a tool, and not a replacement for a qualified teacher or psychologist.  But it can be such a useful tool at such a comparably affordable price, it's hard not to see it as a miracle.  But what do you think?