Tablets are a wonderful tool. They’re lightweight, portable, and multifaceted. In a previous blog post, “Tablets and Kids on the Autism Spectrum“, we discussed how tablets have helped address the many needs of children and young adults in our program. Now a new use for tablets has been discovered: interpersonal communication!
Siri: A Love Story
On October 17, the New York Times published “To Siri with Love: How One Boy with Autism Became BFF with Apple’s Siri“. Author Judith Newman discussed how Siri, Apple’s personal assistant application, helped her 13 year old son Gus practice the intricacies of interpersonal communication. She says,“For most of us, Siri is merely a momentary diversion. But for some, it’s more. My son’s practice conversation with Siri is translating into more facility with actual humans. Yesterday, I had the longest conversation with him that I’ve ever had…it was back and forth, and it followed a logical trajectory. I can promise you that for most of my beautiful son’s 13 years of existence, that has not been the case.”
This article has spread like wildfire since it was published, and for good reason. Not only is it a feel-good success story, but it validates what many have said about the benefits of tablets for children with Autism .
iPads Can Facilitate Relationships
In his blog post on Newman’s article, Alex SooJung-Kim Pang referenced a 2012 study from the University of Toronto which researched the effectiveness of iPads for nonverbal children on the Autism Spectrum. Two significant findings were:
- Children were able to communicate more quickly with teachers and parents (with the iPad) than they could with cards or printed pictures
- Children would use the iPads to communicate and play games with each other.
Another voice in this conversation is Matt Rozsa of The Daily Dot. In his opinion piece, Rosza, who identifies as having Asperger’s Syndrome, compares Gus’s utilization of Siri to learn interpersonal communication to his personal experience with books:“…Siri is performing the same essential service for autistic children today that books did for me, albeit in a more technologically sophisticated manner. Because children with Asperger’s will be inclined to ‘retreat from what they can’t understand by plunging in to what they can’, Siri helps them acquire vital interpersonal skills as they pursue their interests. Indeed…it may have the dual benefit of cultivating their unique strengths even as it helps them overcome their weaknesses.”
FOCUS and the Union Savings Bank Foundation: Providing Connections
FOCUS and the Union Savings Bank (USB) Foundation are partnering together to increase connections between our children on the Autism Spectrum. FOCUS recently received a $2,500 grant from the Union Savings Bank Foundation to purchase iPads for our Extended Day Treatment Program. By having more devices available for our children to use, they will be able to share common interests, engage in cooperative activities, and increase their interpersonal skills. We are thankful to the Union Savings Bank Foundation for their generosity!