iPad: Knowing when it is right for your child

The ability to purchase a more consumer-friendly and less expensive mobile device continues to create excitement in the autism community.

With the hype surrounding the recent release of the iPad 3, you may find yourself wondering if you should purchase one for your child.

Before making the investment, I strongly suggest that you borrow an iPad or an iTouch from a friend or visit your local electronics store to experiment with their floor models.

Wanting to give our students every opportunity to develop their communication skills, we initially purchased an iTouch.  It is lightweight and slim enough to fit into your back pocket.  This is an attractive alternative to the common assistive technology devices offered to those on the autism spectrum as they are portable, more consumer friendly and less expensive.

Unfortunately, we found that this particular device did not meet the needs of our students as many do not have the finger dexterity needed to navigate the keyboard.  I personally found it difficult to use with the small size of the icons.

Committed to the concept of mobile touch devices, we shifted our focus to the iPad because of the larger screen and keyboard which made it easier for our students to use.

Yes, we did find that the iPad was a better tool for our students. As you consider the various platforms, it is essential to determine what software applications, or apps, match the needs of your child or students. These answers are driven by the question: what do you want the device to accomplish? If communication is the major outcome, it will be critical that you involve your child/students’ speech therapist in the decision. If you are interested in educational, social, leisure activities, you may want to speak to your child’s teacher to see what apps would best support his or her classroom program.

It is an exciting time with mobile touch technology. However, we need to evaluate what Apps are most successful to accomplish specific outcomes. There also is the need to conduct research as to the effectiveness of this technology beyond the very positive anecdotal comments we have received.

If you would like some guidance on which apps and other activities to choose, visit AutismClassroom.com’s Facebook Page to learn about how you can win a free book titled “Lesson Ideas and Activities for Young Children with Autism and Related Special Needs: Activities, Apps and Lessons for Joint Attention, Imitation, Play, Social Skills & More.”

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