The iPad is proving a powerful tool in the
treatment of autism conditions
Plenty has been written about the way the
iPad opens up computing for those who have traditionally struggled with it,
such as the elderly. But one of the areas where it’s really making waves is in
helping those who struggle tom communicate at all.
This includes those with autism-spectrum
conditions, people who have had a stroke, and those who have temporary speech
impairment brought on by an illness. ‘I do think the iPad is revolutionary,’
says Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson of Edinburgh University. She is currently involved
in a project designing apps to help children with autism.
‘Before the iPad, most of the communication
tools we had, such as sign languages, were problematic in that the person you
were communicating with had to know is as well, which was rather limiting,’ she
says. With the iPad, however, symbols and gestures can be translated into
speech that’s easily understood by everyone.
An additional advantage is that the iPad
has particular appeal for people with autism, Fletcher-Watson adds: ‘a lot of
evidence says that people with autism tend to have real strength when it comes
to working with technology; they learn really well in technological
is an intuitive, predictive text-to-speech app with a simple picture-based menu
The iPad’s simple, responsive interface is
also highly suited to young children, who can struggle to master more complex
‘Young children seem to find it very
intuitive – although some children can hold back a bit as first, because
they’ve been told not to touch the TV, so it’s a little hard for them to learn
that this is a screen they can touch,’ explains Fletcher-Watson.
She isn’t alone in seizing on the potential
of the iPad – and to a lesser extent the iPhone and iPod touch – as a versatile
tool for people with communication difficulties and autistic – spectrum
conditions. Many communication specialists have found it to be a flexible and
tactile platform that lets them accomplish all kind of tasks with their
Rebecca Bright is a director of Therapy
Box, which makes speech therapy apps. ‘Speech therapists find the iPad a fun
and flexible tool for working with children. Previously, therapists would have
carted around flash cards, books and photocopies, so if the tools are suitable
or an iPad the therapist would find that convenient,’ she enthuses.
iPad’s simple, responsive interface is also highly suited to young children,
who can struggle to master more complex technological systems.
Rachel Moore of The Ace Centre, an
organisation that helps identify what technologies would best support people’s
communications, add: ‘if you can find an app that’s accessible and appropriate,
it can make an enormous difference. The iPad is a mainstream device, it’s
financially accessible, it looks cool – it can be very motivating for people to
use. It’s an attractive platform for a lot of people.’ But she adds that it has
to be the right platform: ‘It isn’t for everybody.’