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Tablets and Autism

When tablets were introduced, they were believed to offer new hope. It was believed children who had difficulty communicating because of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) would now find a way to interact in an appropriate manner. According to a report by Heather Kelly for CNN (Using tablets to reach kids with autism) the enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat.

Tablets Are Tools, Not Miracles

Educators are reassessing how the tablets are used. “They were throwing them at their kids expecting miracles, but it didn’t happen. The reason is they are tools, not miracles,” said Shannon Rosa, an author and former educational software producer who has written about using tablets with her own son, Leo, who has autism. “I think a lot of parents now are more realistic about the level of support that is needed to help kids use them.”

Tablets are still playing a big role, but the expectations have come down to earth. Apps are being created and used as tools to teach more effective communications and social skills. A more effective way to use the devices is to move parents away from using mobile devices as a reward, letting children just play games or watch YouTube videos. Parents are encouraged to seek out dynamic apps that can help with the core challenges of autism while also being fun. They also offer exciting results when used as a teaching tool.

There’s an App for That

At FOCUS we’re using apps in a variety of ways. The Day Program is using the current news apps for our children for non fiction text reading practice. “News O Matic” is aligned with common core. Social studies and science curriculum apps are already loaded and waiting for us to use them such as encyclopedias and Smithsonian Institute, and Bill Nye The Science Guy. The “Ixl Math App” is a flexible resource for us from Pre-K math to high school algebra. It keeps track of our students progress. It is not just a game app! Books can be downloaded for free or a nominal fee on iPads, and-music and other sensory apps can be used for breaks for our clients.

iPads can be used with a projector to stream lessons on a larger screen.

iPads can be used with a projector to stream lessons on a larger screen.

Staying Current

iPads keep our resources current. They also keep our children up-to-date. With technology in every classroom around the state, students are doing their work online. Our kids need to stay technologically savvy to keep up. Using an iPad at FOCUS helps our children sharpen their technology skills.

FOCUS on Results

Through a Grant from the UNICO Foundation, we’re using this technology right now. At FOCUS Center for Autism we use milieu therapy to create an environment were communication and social learning are taught to bring out the full potential of our children.. Tablets at FOCUS Center for Autism are integrated into the program. Our hope is to use the technology in conjunction with the entire program to address the many challenges children, and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders are confronted with every day. FOCUS Center for Autism uses apps for teaching. The children and young adults in the program are using tablets for lesson work, research and communications, but tablet time is limited.

We Could Use More

More of this technology would prove beneficial for the 80 children who attend FOCUS weekly. Our aim is to prepare these children to be full participants in society. iPads can help FOCUS better prepare our kids. Director of Educational Service Carol Doiron says FOCUS could make good use of at least a dozen more iPads. As with any tool like this, resources limit us. If you would like to help contact Kim Grehn (kim.grehn@focuscenterforautism.org) or Colleen Burns (colleen.burns@focuscenterforautism.org).