Skip to comments.Autistic students find help with iPad
Posted on 10/15/2010 11:21:32 PM PDT by Swordmaker
Ray Hart, an 11-year-old West Prairie South Elementary student, works on an iPad. An education app, abcPocketPhonics, has helped Ray improve his writing.
On a recent Monday morning at West Prairie South Elementary in Colchester, Ill., Ray Hart, 11, used a stylus to trace a small t on an iPad screen. After he successfully traced the letter, the tablet computer made a cheering sound. Ray looked up at his teacher, Lori Thompson, and smiled.
Working on the iPad, which was released by Apple in April, has helped Hart dramatically improve his handwriting and boost his confidence.
The first time I showed this to one little guy and he is verbal he was able to start writing letters, and thats carried over into his paper work, Thompson said.
Most of the students in Thompsons special needs classroom have autism, a developmental disorder that makes communication and social interaction difficult.
Were always looking for new ways to help our students come up with ways to communicate and be motivated, Thompson said. We have another (non-verbal) student who uses an augmentative communication device thats very heavy and bulky and hard to carry around, so we were looking for an alternative.
Thompsons two iPads were received after West Prairie Superintendent Jonathan Heerboth suggested the idea.
There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that talked about iPads as a useful communication tool for children on the autism spectrum who could not otherwise communicate, Heerboth said. I knew that Mrs. Thompson had experimented with a similar idea on her iPod Touch.
After Thompson researched the idea, an Apple sales representative met with Heerboth, Thompson and one of her students after the new school year started in August. Soon, Thompson was able to buy two iPads at a considerably lower cost than other augmentative communication devices.
The other devices are from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars apiece, Thompson said. iPads cost, depending on how much memory you get, $500 and up.
Thompsons non-verbal student uses the iPad with a text-to-speech application called Proloquo2Go. Using this application, Thompsons non-verbal student can easily participate in class and answer questions by touching the appropriate icon on the iPad, which then voices a response.
If its their day to be calendar helper, they can tell us, Thompson said. They can pick the day of the week, they can tell me what the weather is (and) they can participate in the Pledge of Allegiance all by the touch, and thats very exciting for them.
Another application on Harts iPad called ABC PocketPhonics not only teaches him how to write a letter, but it teaches him the sound. Stories2Learn teaches social cues, something kids with autism find difficult to pick up on. With this application, Thompson can create a simple story using a combination of photos and her own text that shows a specific skill, such as eye contact. If she chooses, Thompson can also narrate the stories with her own voice.
Thompson can create her own pages for the iPad. If shes doing a lesson on spiders, for example, she can create a page about spiders in about 15 minutes.
The apps are easy to download from iTunes and some other places as well, Thompson said. Its a lot easier than some of the DynaVox (communication) systems Im used to programming.
Many of these applications can also be downloaded onto an iPhone or iPod Touch, and most are inexpensive. ABC PocketPhonics costs just $1.99 on iTunes, for example, and Stories2Learn is available for $13.99. Proloquo2Go, a more specialized application, costs $189.99.
The iPads stay in the classroom and do not go home with the students. They are recharged at the end of the day and, if needed, Thompson updates them with new material.
Kathy Olesen-Tracey, an educator with the Center for Application of Information Technology at Western Illinois University, said current research is showing that the use of technologies such the iPad, and even smart phones like the iPhone, improves student test scores. She cited one recent study that showed high school students who used math applications with smart phones received higher standardized test scores in math.
Tracey says assistive technology, like the iPad, doesnt replace teaching in classrooms, it reinforces it.
Youre creating an entire network they can tap into, she said.
The iPads in Thompsons classroom have been so successful that she wants all of her students to have access to the technology.
Were working on trying to write a grant to get a couple more, Thompson said.
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Great find. My boss, a teacher for the visually impaired, has been talking about trying to order an iPad for our students. Apple is very close to offering a real alternative to JAWS screen readers.
I have a close friend with a 2-yr old autistic son. I wonder if something like this would help him... he's a wonderful kid and would appreciate it, I think.
My father had dementia, along with several other problems that led to his death last month. During his last days in the hospital he constantly used the IPad to play cribbage and solitaire, or to watch “Tombstone” or “Bullit.”
Although I had to initiate the games and occasionally help him through user mistakes (it can read only one finger touching the screen), the IPad proved to be a tool for his enjoyment. It was a blessing for all of us. He enjoyed himself instead of laboring though the questions of why he was in the hospital and why he couldn’t go home.
Those of you that care for people with dementia may want to take a look at the IPad and its many programs. It not only helped us with Dad, it helped him enjoy himself.
Sorry to hear of the loss of your father. I am glad that you found a way to keep him amused in his last days. The iPad has such a short learning curve it is probably excellent for people with alzheimer’s too... they can learn it anew everyday and still enjoy it.
The iPad already has an option to read everything that appears on the screen... it's called VoiceOver... and can be turned on in "Settings." You can set the speed of the voice, whether it uses phonetic pronunciation, key stroke announcing, etc. It's pretty cool. I just tried it. You can also switch the iPad to White on Black display for visually impaired where that might benefit them.
My mom is confined to a bed, and also suffers from mild dementia. I download apps that are appropriate for her and she can play/use them because she doesn’t have to use a mouse, just her finger (although she was very computer saavy before her illness...a mouse would be too complicated at this point.)
I also use my iPad as a babysitter, LOL. My grandnieces love a virtual paperdoll app, it’s very creative.
My son is grown, but I homeschooled, and when I see the apps available I think that the iPad would be a great addition to any homeschooler. We used electronic passive learning (like the geosafari) and there are many apps on the iPad that create the same learning situation.
It not only helped us with Dad, it helped him enjoy himself.
A real blessing. I was pleased when my mother favorably commented on the water color over the mantle which I had bought from an art student friend back in the day. Mother sat many an hour where she could see that restful woodland scene.I would have thought an iPad was dirt cheap if it would have helped entertain her . . .
This seems like a great place to put this. I have to take a kid to a BB tourny but I have a question for ipad people. My 11 year old son would like an ipad for books and computer and such. Would an itouch be good or is it too small, is it worth the money? He is a very responsible 11 year old and a voracious reader. What else do they do? Are they really a laptop? What cant they do? What is that thing that I want it to do but it doesn’t but wont know it till I have it. I don’t know anyone with either an ipad or an itouch and could use someone with real life experience. Closest Apple store is 80 miles away so I cant just run out and test one in the store, and that really doesn’t help much with what I want anyway. Thank you very much in advance for your information.
I just have an iPod touch, still waiting a bit on the iPad. I love the touch - an amazing device. I have only paid for a couple apps, just use the free ones...so many apps, the device can do almost anything. I have a lot of games, finance apps, calculator apps, apps for books/bible/declaration/constitution...
as much use as my 2 macbooks get, almost everything they are used for could be done on the iPad. I surf a lot more on the touch than I ever thought I would. and only 80 miles from an apple store - I am about 110 or so...how about a best buy in the area, they also have the iPad. announcments just this week, you may very soon have closer outlets. AT&T, Verizon, maybe even Walmart.
if he wants the Ipad primarily for reading, you could consider a Kindle. The upper end model runs under $200 and is AWESOME for reading
If you want the application part of it AND reading, then I’d go with the Ipad over the itouch. The itouch is great for apps, but not so much for reading a book.
Your remark about the non-mouse actions is interesting. My Dad also had tremors in his hands; his use of a mouse was labored. But the IPad helped him enjoy his games.
Good luck and God’s blessings for your work with your Mom.
I had a kindle and now own an IPad. If your son reads in the sunlight, get a Kindle for him. Otherwise, the IPad is better in every other respect.
I like the color photos that the IPad can display, along with graphs, etc.. Hands down, the IPad is better if used out of the sunlight.
Excellent use of new technology ping.
Mom, It has no camera... so it cannot do video chatting or camera work of any kind without adding an adaptor or using a bluetooth camera. Most laptops have built in cams... but that is not necessarily a bad thing. No video sexting for a kid going into puberty might be good...
The form factor of a laptop is NOT GOOD for reading books... the iPad’s is. The iPod touch is too small, I think to be a good book reader... but some find it OK. I don’t. I have an iPhone with the same size screen and while I can use it in a pinch, I prefer the full size book format of the iPad.
You can attach a bluetooth or hardwired keyboard to an iPad, making it much more like a notebook or laptop... but you still are locked into the iOS apps and cannot run more robust applications available for OSX. You still have a much larger canon of software available, though... the entire iPhone collection and a smaller iPad only collection that is growing daily. In November iOS 4.2 will be released and the iPad will be officially multitasking and you will be able to do much more. There are already word processing, spread sheet, and presentation software available... as well as drawing, painting, and photo enhancement apps. There are superb games, thousands of games, millions of books (many of them absolutely free), many free apps, fun things, serious things, tools that aren’t even available on a notebook...
WalMart started selling iPads yesterday, Target last week, and Best Buy two weeks ago... so you might be able to look at one there... but they will not have many apps on them. An iPad only comes alive after you’ve installed apps... then you start to wonder how you ever got along without one.
The Touch is a great little device, incredibly versatile. It’s not an ideal device for reading books, but it’s serviceable, especially for young eyes. My observations here are based on my iPhone, but should apply to the Touch.
I can’t think of any large category of tasks it can’t do — there are several that it wasn’t really designed for and can’t do particularly well. The newest generation adds cameras front and back, so you can use it for video calls — but that and all of the network functions depend on WiFi. The latest generation also adds the spectacular Retina screen that’s on the iPhone 4.
The Web browser is great for tiny screens. There is not, and will not be, support for Flash, so if he’s going to use it for that, you might want to look elsewhere.
The best feature of the Touch or iPhone as a book reader, obviously, is its size. I’ve read a couple of books on the iPhone because it’s always with me when I have unexpected free time. You can get books from Apple’s iBooks or from the Amazon Kindle bookstore using a free app; they also sync with a computer, a Kindle device or an iPad, so you can start a book on one and pick it up on another with your bookmarks and notes intact.
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