Mobile Devices and Treating Autism

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Mobile devices have become the next stage in speech and language therapy for Autism. While they do represent a huge up front investment, the benefits of having a a mobile device are becoming clear.First, they represent a more intimate interaction. Instead of having to make a correletation between key and action, a finger on the screen makes the interaction more simple. No longer do you need to relate a mouse location on a desk to a visual pointer, you instead point with your finger. That makes for a more simple interaction with data. It is similar to interacting with paper, a book, or a poster on the wall.Another reason is the versatility of the mobile device. Starting with the iPod Touch and iPad, and now with Android tablets starting to show their heads, developers have found a way to bring the old paper therapy tools to life. That means increased engagement on the part of the student (in this case with Autism), which follows with more progress. To date, developers have created communication tools to allow children with Autism to relate pictures with spoken words and actions, games to teach social skills, apps to teach reading, games to teach social interaction, and even apps to help children visualize what the mouth is doing in order to learn how to speak. While all this technology has been previously available for the desktop, or even a laptop, never before has it been made available in a device that can fit in your pocket. Yes, the new multitouch device has been a technology advance that has come at a time when Autism is growing as a diagnosis. But how do you use these great applications? Not all of them are intuitive, and that is what is often what defines a good app from a bad app. Many are designed by speech therapists, occupational therapists, special education teachers, etc. who know what they want, but do not often know what the parents need. Not that it's a problem generally, if you are working with your special education teacher, or are willing to do a little bit of reading on the apps main website. So to all those out there who continue to doubt the "magic" quality of the iPad, Motorola Zoom, or any other mobile device for children with Autism, I hope you rethink your position. Sure the iPad is not the immediate support tool, as it doesn't replace a therapist, but it can reduce the number of meetings and the amount of time spent in one on one therapy sessions. And I, for one, think that is pretty neat.