May 24, 2017

Autism and the Apple iPad, iPod Touch

iPad and iPod Touch; An Effective Communication Device for Autism

Parents and teachers of people with Autism are always searching for a communication device to assist those who are non-verbal or whose language is limited.  The team at Apple didn’t have Autism in mind when they designed the iPad and the iPod touch; yet the unexpected advantage of these devices provided one of the biggest breakthroughs for communication in the Autism world.

Holly Cook, M.S., CCC-SLP, CEO and Clinical Director of Cook Speech and Language in Sacramento, California, discovered the advantage using her iPhone during the assessment of a young adult with Cerebral Palsy with severe articulation difficulties.  “I was amazed at how interested he was in using the device and how easily he made requests and comments with it, such as telling me what he had for lunch, his favorite restaurant or how he was feeling that day,” says Holly.  “I then began  to use my iPhone as a reinforcer for children with Autism.  After completing a requested task the child would be rewarded with a special video or a game they enjoyed playing on the iPhone . . . later I came across an application called iPrompts and immediately saw the benefits for children with Autism.  The application eliminated the need for laminated pictures (often referred to as PECS) used for schedules, making choices, expressing feeling, etc.  This “app” also eliminated the need for storing and organizing the bulky pictures and gives the child access to thousands of picture supports.”  Holly adds that for those who have fine motor-skill difficulty, the iPad is a good choice as the pictures are larger.  The iPod touch is smaller, about the size of a phone, and therefore easily portable.  The choice of which to choose simply depends on which will work best for the individual.  They are equally beneficial for adults and children, whether verbal or non-verbal.

Software Apps for use in Autism

You can download numerous apps on the smart pads for communication use in addition to the free apps that come with the iPad.  This includes a voice output system which gives people with severe communication difficulties the ability to hear the words they choose out loud, in whole sentences, as well as easier access to a variety of language concepts and ways to communicate.  The most important thing you can give a non-verbal person is a way to express their wants, needs and feelings.  The special education department in most school districts will provide specialized software applications for the iPad when requested at a child’s Individualized Education Program meeting (I.E.P).  Besides the iPrompts, Holly recommends Tap To Talk and  Prologuo2go (see sources below for video link; iPad Gives Voice to the Autistic).  “There are others out there,” says Holly, “but these offer the most extensive systems I’ve found as far as ease of use and access to a wide vocabulary base . . . more apps are being developed on a daily basis.”  Just about anything on the internet can be downloaded as well, such as You Tube videos. The possibilities are endless.

iPad vs Laptop

Laptops offer an avenue for communication as well and are effective for many Autistic people.  However, the cost and ease of use is not comparable to the iPad for most consumers.  “The laptops can be difficult to program or adapt quickly to changing situations.  For people with Autism, this is frustrating because their greatest challenge is pragmatics, or use of language.” says Holly.  “The motivation to communicate is a core component to having successful interactions.  The smart pads or tablets can often be that motivation.  The rate at which a person communicates both verbally and non-verbally is so important in communication development . . . the more they practice the better they become.”

With the release of the iPad 2, the cost of the original iPad is in the neighborhood of $400.00, about $100.00 less than the new iPad 2.  Original iPads can be found at the on-line Apple Store (while supplies last) as well as refurbished iPads and iPods.  In addition these devices can be found on Amazon at a reduced price.

Many stories are being heard about the success people are finding with Autism and the iPad.  One young man, when asked what he wanted for his 19th birthday, began to touch invisible buttons in the air.  This was the first time in his life he responded to this particular question; a question always asked of him on birthdays and Christmas.  For the parent of an Autistic person this is truly a beautiful gift.  For the person who is unable to communicate, the iPad offers the gift of independence.


Apple’s App Store – Go to iPad then click on Built in Apps

ABC World News Report: iPad Gives Voice to the Autistic

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Copyright©2011 KC Peters


  1. Great article. I love seeing technology touch and effect lives in such positive ways…so awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great article. I love seeing technology touch and effect lives in such positive ways…so awesome. Thanks for sharing!

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