iPads a Miracle for Autistic Kids - Or Not

Filed under: In The News

Fighting autism with an iPad? Credit: Jeff Chiu, AP

You know what kids with autism need? iPads!

KTAL, the NBC affiliate in Fort Worth, Texas, reports a local school is getting two dozen iPads to help autistic children.

"The iPad can provide immediate feedback for a child's response," Anthony Cammilleri, director of the Jane Justin School at the Child Study Center, tells the TV station. "It removes the disconnect between the mouse and the computer screen."

Really?

An article posted on Wired.com last March casts some doubt.

"Geek Dad" blogger Daniel Donahoo says the legend of the iPad as a miracle for autistic kids is big on anecdotal evidence and short on actual facts.

"The potential of the iPad is not achieved by the iPad alone, nor by simply placing it in the hands of a child with autism," he writes. "The potential of the device is realized by the way professionals like speech pathologists, educators, occupational therapists and early childhood development professionals apply their skills and knowledge to use the iPad to effectively support the development of children.

"The potential is realized by engaged parents working with those professionals to explore how the device best meets the individual needs of their child."

He adds the term "Autism Spectrum Disorder" is popular for a reason. Every child on the spectrum is different.

"No two children can be supported in exactly the same way," he writes. "Parents and professionals understand this, and because they do they also understand that for some children with autism it might not be the right time to introduce an iPad."

Nonetheless, even if it's just hype, educators are increasingly bullish about iPads.

The Fort Worth school got a grant to buy the the devices. And that anecdotal evidence Donahoo talked about? It's already rolling in. Families with autistic children tell KTAL the technology has already made a difference.

"It's been amazing to watch them grow," David Tossell, the father of autistic 7-year-old twins, tells the station. "What used to take them, say, a minute to figure out, now they're actually doing in a matter of seconds.

"Knowing that kids really need to get comfortable with technology and seeing that they can do it with the iPad, it really gives me encouragement for the future for them," he adds.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.