When Apple CEO Steve Jobs first launched the iPad, he called it a "magical device." Over a year later, many autism experts and parents of autistic children agree. Through the devices, many children with autism have been able to communicate their thoughts and feelings for the first time. Others have learned life skills that had eluded them for years.
"I just couldn't imagine not introducing this to a parent of a child who has autism," says Tammy Mastropietro, a speech pathologist based outside Boston who uses the iPad with numerous clients. She sees it as a game changer for those with autism, particularly those most severely affected.
Shannon Rosa, mother of a 10-year old autistic son agrees. "I don't usually dabble in miracle-speak," she says, "but I may erect a tiny altar to Steve Jobs in the corner of our living room."
Scientists know little about autism which affects nearly 1 out of every 110 children born in the United States. But they agree that the developmental brain disorder manifests in three ways: communication deficits, social isolation, and obsessive behaviors. Whether they are high- or low-functioning, children with autism tend to be visual learners who gravitate toward technology and screens. They are less adept at recognizing human faces and expressions.
Though there are other computers designed for children with autism, a growing number of experts say that the iPad is better. It's cheaper, faster, more versatile, more user-friendly, more portable, more engaging and infinitely “cooler” for young people. A large number of iPad applications or “apps” have been created that address the most common disabilities found in autistic children: attention span, communication, and organization or sequencing.
The first major study concerning autism and the iPad (titled Touch Technologies in the Classroom) is currently underway in Toronto. iPads and iPod touches were installed in six classrooms where they could be used by autistic children.The study is in phase two and early results indicate that the use of these devices can extend short attention spans and improve communication, social interaction and learning.
In this video, see how the iPad is truly magical for those with autism.
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