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IPads Can Help Autistic Children "Speak"


Some say that iPads work miracles, and for some autistic children-they do. Unlike a computer, where the child must interact with the technology using a keyboard and a mouse, the iPad’s touch-pad/screen helps to engage the child directly. The visual nature of applications make the iPad easier for the autistic child to navigate without requiring the dexterity and fine motor skills required to operate a computer. The technology coupled with dozens of “autism” applications (apps) can be a valuable learning and communication tool.

Giving a Non-Verbal Child a Voice- IPad as an AAC

Autistic children have difficulty interacting with the world around them. For the child without a voice, one who is non-verbal, an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device can be mean the difference between interacting with the people around them, or remaining stuck inside of themselves. When a child can “tap” on a screen to convey their needs and wants, a whole new world is opened to them. The IPad in conjunction with apps like Proloquo2Go allows these children to communicate in a way they were unable to do before. According to David Niemeijer, founder of AssistiveWare, the creator of Proloquo2Go, 90% of AAC users use an iPad, IPhone or IPod Touch for communication, and about half of them reported improved speech abilities. Even verbal autistic children struggle with language and communication skills and can greatly benefit from this interactive technology allowing for easier communication.

Apps for Learning and Language Development

Beyond the use of the IPad as an AAC device, many apps are useful for language and speech development, to learn social skills, behavioral management, and just for entertainment. Apps like Autism and PPD Basic Questions is designed to learn and understand the more complex language the concepts of who, what, where, when and why. AutiPlan Pictoplanner is like a personal digital assistant, that helps you set a schedule using visual (pictures) planning. StoryMaker creates and presents social stories using pictures, text, and audio. These are hundreds of other apps to help learn reading and math skills. Toddlers can sing learn nursery songs and puzzles. There are endless opportunities for learning.

What Does It Cost?

Currently you can purchase an IPad for as little as $399 with apps ranging from being free to $219.99 for the Proloquo2Go. You can also find cheap iPad screen replacement deals in the case of an accident (such as ipad pro 12.9 screen replacement services), so there is no concern regarding the safety of the device. While the app may seem expensive to the casual IPad user, it is a cheaper alternative to traditional AAC devices, which can cost several thousand dollars. These apps are developed by experts as a way of helping autistic children be able to improve their language development without having to engage with a stranger which can be very intimidating. Any autism expert wanting to develop their own app may need to invest in mobile app advertising to help their app receive more downloads so that they can help more children.

Will My Insurance Pay for an IPad?

Some insurance companies may pay for an IPad for a child who requires an ACC device. You may need to call them to find out if they would be willing to cover the expense. Be prepared to offer documentation from doctors, or therapists indicated the need. If they refuse, there are alternate methods of funding available in the form of grants you may be able to pursue.

Purchasing an IPad for your autistic child may be a great investment. With the array of apps ranging from assertive communications technology, to interactive speech, social learning, and puzzles, there is plenty of opportunity to enhance their learning. The IPad is the leader in this class of portable computer/tablet technology, but there are many other tablets that can be used to run apps developed to assist autistic children.

We are an iPad wielding household, both my little guys have iPad minis and they are great tools for communication, and have the added benefit of tracking if you use the Find My Phone app. And I do a good amount of my work on my iPad Pro, which I absolutely love.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.

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