iPad Therapy and Autism December 01 2011

The use of computers, video games, and mobile devices in traditional schools is something that has received a lot of attention in both the mainstream and specialist press recently, and with good reason. Mobile devices are a part of everyday life now, and it would be foolish to ignore the value of having an encyclopaedia, effectively, in your pocket.

In the rush to improve the learning experience for the majority however, it’s all too easy to forget about those who are in need of supported living arrangements. The value of technology in autism care should not be underestimated.

There’s an app for everything

The iPad is an incredibly flexible device – it’s easy to use, fairly rugged, and big enough that even young children with limited co-ordination can make good use of it. Developers have noticed this, and there are numerous apps that are perfect for use by supported living groups.

Children on the autistic spectrum have a range of different needs. Each child is different, and those differences should be taken into account in any autism care scheme. With that said, there are a range of apps available that will help autistic children to develop new abilities and skills. Apps can help with:

  • Social Skills
  • Co-ordination and fine motor skills
  • Speech and communication
  • Sensory skills
  • Coping with stress

Some of the apps that are used in autism care are general applications that could be used in any educational setting, however there are other apps, such as Stories2Learn and AutismExpress, which are designed specifically to help autistic children to learn how to understand emotions, and how to communicate with other people.

The iPad is an expensive device, and not all families can afford one. Fortunately, the iPhone is far less expensive, and most educational apps will run on both devices.

Before the release of the iPad, options were limited. Some supported living organizations were able to make use of speech generating devices, or specialist computer software for education, but these tools were incredibly expensive, and lacked the portability and flexibility of a mobile device.

Handheld Learning is The Future

Each year, the Handheld Learning conference in London attracts over 1,000 attendees from around the world. These attendees are thought leaders in the worlds of technology and education, and they have used mobile devices and handheld gaming devices to great success in everything from improving the performance of primary school children in math tests, to making advances in the quality of life of children with special needs.

There are some pitfalls to the use of mobile technology. It’s important to remember that mobile devices can be used to access the Internet, and that if you’re going to leave that capability turned on then you’ll need to educate the children in your care about the dangers of the internet, and also their personal responsibilities – such as protecting their privacy, and not engaging in cyber bullying. Most children, even those who are on the autistic spectrum, will surprise you with their capacity to learn and work efficiently with technology, but they will need adult guidance to keep them safe.


This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Voyage, who offer a variety of supported living and autism care schemes.