IPad:The Cool New Device for Autistic Children

IPad:The Cool New Device for Autistic Children

For some children with autism though, the iPod touch and it’s bigger cousin the iPad are life-changing. One teacher working with severely autistic children calls the iPod a “magic wand”. A mother with a non-verbal autistic daughter calls hers a “godsend”. What makes these devices so great for autistic children?

Since the launch of the IPhone, Singaporeans have been clamoring to get hold of one and finding every opportunity to use it. Whether on the MRT or bus ride home, waiting in a queue or even crossing the road, people are glued to their gadgets checking their mail, replying an SMS or just playing games. And now, the introduction of the newly developed IPad has got everyone excited once more.

For some children with autism though, the iPod touch and it’s bigger cousin the iPad are life-changing. One teacher working with severely autistic children calls the iPod a “magic wand”. A mother with a non-verbal autistic daughter calls hers a “godsend”. What makes these devices so great for autistic children?

They allow kids with limited verbal skills to think and communicate easily using pictures. Transitions from one activity to another, or one space to another, often make autistic children very anxious. Having an iPad show them in pictures what is happening now, and what will happen next, eases these transitions.

Children can also use them communicate what they want. One mom described the hit or miss process of going shopping with her autistic daughter. The girl would indicate that she wanted to go shopping, but couldn’t say where. They’d drive from store to store in frustration. Now she has an iPod app that shows pictures of her daughter’s favorite destinations, and she can use the touchscreen to show her mom which one she wants before they leave the house.

The devices are also relatively inexpensive. The iPad starts at US$500, which is steep for a toy. But it’s half the cost of a medical device designed to assist autistic children with non-verbal communication. Apps to assist communication are free or very cheap, and there are plenty of games and movies available to entertain kids, too. It works out to a bargain for families who need this kind of bridge for their kids to communicate.

Unfortunately, the IPad is not yet available in Singapore but when it is, we'd love to see them being used as a communication and educational tool in schools for children with special needs.

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Written by

Felicia Chin

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