Thursday, April 25, 2013

How iPads & Tablets Can Support Autistic Learning & Play

These iPads have been around for almost three years now, which is rather mind-boggling. Even though tablets no longer attract sideshow-level reactions with every mention, they are still wonderful tools for many autistic kids and adults, and exciting new approaches and apps keep emerging. I teach autism and iPads workshops all over the country (including a class at San Jose's Morgan Autism Center on February 9th); the following is a general outline of what I'll discuss, and my current take on iPads and autism.Tablets: Tools, Not Miracles My initial response to seeing my autistic son kick butt using an iPad was elation, because he was instantly able to learn and entertain himself independently. However, tablets are not for everyone. Evaluate tablets and apps before buying. Tablets encourage presuming competence by enabling visual and alternative communication and learning. Competence expressed and recognized increases self-confidence. Benefits: Accessibility and Convenience No cursor analogy -- direct touch screen Fine motor ease -- stylus/mouse not required (and switch accessories now available) So very portable (but invest in a good case, if fragility is a concern) Can replace backpacks -- and cupboards -- of activities App content is not static, contents updates are often free Benefits: Learning So much more than an AAC device! (Non-dedicated device status can be an issue, less so with Guided Access) Screen is big enough to be digital parallel to paper or books Keyboard and screen are in same space, don't have to move eyes from screen to keyboard Apps are organized, accessible, predictable framework Apps break learning down into discrete chunks, topic areas Learn without needing to read, including read-aloud books Learn independently or with support (but always supervised) Incidental learning opportunities abound Benefits: Social and Play iPads are cool, they attract other kids – including siblings Can support social skills, formally and informally Custom story apps allow preparing for transitions, routines, meeting new people – or re-experiencing said scenarios Face-blindness (common in autism): labeling and other photo-content apps can enable associating names and characteristics with people Independent leisure time: Learning activities, games, videos Best Practices Evaluate thoroughly before buying: Tablets are expensive, apps are expensive Get professional evaluation for AAC apps Different systems work for different users If long-term AAC use is expected, do not want to re-learn communication system Get fully informed before upgrading, e.g., iOS 6 deleted YouTube app Overuse and Abuse? What about reports like “Autistic Kids Obsess Over Screen Technology”? Autistic adults say “Yes, we’re visual and very focused, why not explore how to harness these traits productively.” Savvy iPad-using autistic kids can be experts, help other kids, mentor them. Makes me laugh, for kids like Leo, for whom independent is good! Valid concern for kids who crave screen time (evaluate screen time-limiting apps like Screen Time). Autism, iPads, and Apps Resources• iPad Apps for Autism spreadsheet – a collaborative effort with an SLP (Jordan Sadler) and an autistic adult (Corina Becker):• My iPad Resource page:• Autistic Adult App Project:• Eric Saliers, Speech Language Pathologist: • GeekSLP TV• IEAR: I Educational Apps Review: • Moms With Apps:• Jordan Sadler, SLP:• Smart Apps for Kids: • Surprisingly Educational Apps:• Tech in Special Ed:
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