The first time my son H had exposure to an iPad was in preschool where an aid would have him do certain tasks with the STAR Program and reward when a task was completed by letting him do a puzzle on the iPad. H is almost 5 years old and considered non-verbal although he does say words on occasion. His teacher and aids all insisted that he would do whatever it took to have that time with the iPad. So we started browsing online looking at iPads, and apps for autism, and programs that help with funding iPads to people with autism. But it turned out, for us, that all of that was unnecessary because incredibly my big brother Matthew completely surprised us by buying an iPad and gifting it to us all on his own accord. THANK YOU BIG BROTHER!!!
So why is an iPad such a blessing for a person with autism? Here comes some speculation. We, my fiance and I, have learned that for our son person to person communication and some kinds of contact are overstimulating and unpredictable. Since H doesn’t communicate verbally with us it is hard to know exactly how this makes him feel but we can surmise that it’s uncomfortable for him at times and without the predictability it feels chaotic. H thrives on routine and predictability and feeling like he has some control in whatever is happening, like most all of us do. So you can imagine that with an iPad he can have all of these things without the pressure and stress of unpredictable, overstimulating human contact.
Does this mean we hand him the iPad in the morning and don’t see him until bedtime? Of course not. Moderation is just common sense.
The first time we knew the iPad was really doing something special for H was when he said the words banana, apple and turtle all in a row over and over while playing the PICKnSPELL app. This was months ago when it was extremely rare for him to say anything at all, and that night he was saying three words over and over while playing with the iPad.
There have been other exciting moments with H and the iPad getting him to talk. The biggest so far and most exciting has been with his latest fave Rinky Dinky Rhyme Book. A few days ago we couldn’t figure out why all of a sudden H kept going in our bedroom with the iPad to cover himself in a blanket until we realized that he was acting out one of the stories in the app called ‘Lazy Day’ where the main character lays in bed and wraps himself up in a blanket. It didn’t take long for H to not only act out the motions in the story but he started to repeat every word in it too. He was “reading” along! You have to understand there’s only been a few times when H has said more then a single word at a time, so for him to say whole sentences, even if they aren’t clearly articulated is something to be celebrated.
Another app that we love because it gets him to make noise, even if they’re not illegible words is Sensory it’s a simple app that let’s you visualize sound, so when he makes a noise a little image appears on the screen and gets bigger or smaller depending on how loud or quiet he is.
We’re still exploring the big wide world of apps, so I plan on revisiting this post and adding great apps as I go along. But for now here is a list of H’s favorite apps:
First Words Deluxe This is a basic sight words app.
Moo, Baa, La La La! An interactive Sandra Boynton book.
Coloring Zoo A coloring book where you touch a picture and it colors it automatically while a new picture pops up. You keep touching each new pop up until the whole page is in color.
Endless Alphabet A word appears depending on which letter you choose and the letters to spell it are all over the screen. You drag each letter into place until you’ve spelled the entire word and than it announces the word you spelled accompanied by an animated cartoon that acts out what the word means.
Meek-a-Moo This is a basic peek-a-boo app. Three animals appear at the top of the screen and one of the three meanders in behind some tall grass or a fence and makes the noise of one of the three featured animals. When you pick the correct animal that matches the noise the grass or fence opens and shows you the animal and announces what it is.
Kidomatic A camera specifically for kids. You can take a photo of what’s in front of you or flip it around and take self pics. Comes with stickers, like cartoon mustaches and sunglasses, and a spray paint option that you can decorate your photo with. The app says things like “Great Picture!” when your child takes a photo.
UPDATE NEW APPS ADDED:
Owl and Pals Preschool Lessons Help the owl and her animal friends through 11 fun mini games while learning the basics of numbers, letters, colors, shapes, spatial reasoning, and more.
Letter Quiz Four different games for every stage of learning; flashcards, identification, matching and handwriting. We love the letter tracing game on this one!
Oh, and I almost forgot! iPads are spendy and breakable so before we ever let H use it by himself we invested in a sturdy cover. We are very happy with the one we chose, it’s got an extra thick layer of high quality shock absorption so if it gets dropped, which it has, it’s not going to fall apart. We chose this one from Amazon.com
Anyway, that’s my long wordy book about iPads and autism. Of course the iPad is enjoyable for the whole family but I hear a lot of sour talk about people not understanding why a small child would ever need an iPad. Well, here’s one story from the counter perspective.
They’re useful, educational, entertaining and can open up a whole new way for someone with autism to connect with the world.