Helping Nonverbal Children Speak

iPads TRR_0588ehave created a buzz among families raising a child with autism. A child who is unable to speak can only express his needs and wants through behavior.  For example, a child could take a parent’s hand and walk him to the refrigerator or he/she could be a temper tantrum.  With the explosion of technology many parents are asking the question “can a technology device such as the iPad help my child learn language?”

At the BNI we have seen significant improvements in language in our students when the iPad is used in conjunction with therapy. However, I am always looking to research to support educational practice. Therefore I was pleased to see that research teams at UCLA, Vanderbilt and Kennedy Krieger had tested a developmentally based behavioral intervention approach for teaching language using the combination of spoken language and speech generating devices (SGD) including iPads.  They found that in a group of 62 children over a nine month period using the SGD the researchers saw significantly greater improvement in spoken language in comparison to the same intervention without access to the SGD.  Over time many of the children decreased their use of SGD because spoken language was quicker and more efficient.

Here are some suggestions and tips to help you incorporate the iPad at home:TRR_0065

  • If possible have one iPad for communication and another for leisure skills/entertainment.  We’ve done this in the classroom because we have found that if the child is using it as a reinforce it is very difficult to get him to maintain attention to a task.  An inexpensive way is to have different colored covers for the iPad.
  • The application was used in this study.  We did not find this app to be appropriate for many of our students so this led us to explore LAMP, ArtikPix and this list of articulation apps.  BNI’s speech therapist cautions that there are so many apps available to help children learn speech; however, many of them are not developed by speech-language pathologists. Parents should look for apps specifically designed by licensed and trained speech-language pathologists.  These apps should not be used in place of a SLP, but should instead be used as a way for parents to work on generalization/carry over of skills.
  • Be flexible.  Choose an activity that your child really enjoys and have an alternative in mind when he loses interest in the game and communicating.
  • Take advantage of this great opportunity for turn taking, a skill many children need to develop.
  • Verbalize or use your language to describe the pictures your child is seeing on the screen.  Take advantage of using prepositions to describe the location of the object.
  • Limit the iOS device to stay on one app by disabling the Home button – please email me for step by step instructions on how to do this.

TRR_0005As someone who is taking baby steps to become technology literate I encourage you to do the same. There is a world of opportunity out there for our children.  Just reach out and ask for help.  Please share with us any of your thoughts on iPads and communication.




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