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The iPad and ASD

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One might view the iPad as simply a smaller computer that keeps connectivity to the Internet convenient for the mobile user. Instead of having to squint into a smartphone, iPad users can surf the Web, read books, watch movies and play games easier. However, one unintended benefit of the iPad has been its possibilities for those who suffer from the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For young children who were not able to use speech to express their needs, because of the severity of their autism, the visual cues in the iPad offered a different release. Instead of simply crying, these children could use the iPad to communicate. The touchpad serves as a springboard for communication, and apps like Proloquo2Go and First Words help these students use touch to talk to the outside world. As researchers have learned more and more about ways that autistic students can use tablet computers, the number of apps that are designed to help with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) has grown. If one looks in the Apple App store, and search for “autism apps,” one will see more than 750 choices.

One way that teachers can incorporate the iPad into lesson plans with students who suffer from ASD has to do with teaching preschoolers about social skills. During the preschool years, ASD can be particularly frustrating for students, who only know that they cannot communicate. It is extremely difficult for teachers to engage these students at first, because of the simple panic factor involved. However, by using such apps as Wonkido, iPad users can watch short videos about such social skills as asking to “go potty” or even asking friends in the class to play. For ASD sufferers, these basic social steps can seem like mountains. Showing ASD sufferers these videos can help them bridge the gap between their own understanding and that of their students. Incorporating these apps can make social skills instruction successful for all preschoolers in a class.

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