Autism, Kids

iPads and Autism

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.


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

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.


8 thoughts on “iPads and Autism

  1. Great reading you story on your son and the ipad. I wish we had tablets back when my son was diagnosed. I created an app you might be interested in, if you son loves trains. It is called Training Faces and it is for emotion recognition and built around 9 train routes around the world. Also a percentage of each download will go to autism charities. Best Regards,

  2. Rachel says:

    My son has just turned 3 and the past year he had been using an iPad and different types of apps. He also has a hard time with speech/communication. He knows his ABC’s, numbers 1-20, shapes and colors and some animals. These past 7 months have been amazing. I believe the use of the iPad apps and the OT and ST that he was receiving has helped him tremendously! I’m definitely going to add these apps to my boys iPad! Thank you so much!

    • Hi Rachel, I hope your son loves the apps like mine does. And I’m glad you mention OT and ST they are helping my son a lot too. 🙂

      • Davs and Rachel,
        I wanted to reply because I am about 15 years past where you are today. Our son is 22 just landed his first real job at an on-line fulfillment company and started driving at age 20.

        Do as much OT and speech as you can afford and another thing that worked for our son was vision therapy, turns out his eyes were not focusing together. Sound odd, but it really helped. God speed to you both keep up the great work. What you are doing today, WILL make a difference for your kids!


      • Therese, that’s so good to hear. We had his hearing checked but now I can’t think if we’ve had his eyes checked or not. Thank you for coming back and for the hope and encouragement. ~Sarah

  3. Hi there!

    I stumbled across your blog while looking for news about Rinky Dinky Rhyme Book, and I am absolutely floored by your words. I developed Rinky Dinky Rhyme Book with this kind of thing in mind, and it’s truly amazing to see how the work I do can actually affect people in a positive way. It may not be obvious (I hope not anyway), but RDRB was made by myself over the course of a full year. I had a good friend and old band-mate of mine create the music for the app, but other than that it was the work of an individual. Thank you for sharing your experiences with RDRB and H. It can be a very lonely thing being an independent app developer, but this honestly makes it all worth it. Reading your story brings up so many emotions in me, and I wanted to let you know that your story found its way to me, just like my stories found their way to you and your family. That’s a beautiful thing.

    If you would, please contact me at

    • Simon, Your reply gave me the chills, the good chills! Such a great thing to hear that not only has your hard work in developing the app affected us in a positive way, but in turn the positivity has bounced back to you, I’m so glad. Will contact you in a few moments. ~Sarah

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