As learning scientists and game designers, we embrace the power of educational technology. The Huffington Post recently published an article in which Howard Shane, Ph.D., professor of speech-language pathology and director of the Autism Language Program at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, explains how the iPad is an essential tool for working with children on the autism spectrum: “The iPad gives them more opportunities to be better communicators, to be better learners… The iPad is clearly the next step. It’s a game changer.” We couldn’t agree more.
Early on, we selected the iPad as a platform for our “digital behavioral therapy” (a term that LearningWorks for Kids aptly coined just for us) – not because it was the coolest, shiny new gadget, but because it is uniquely suited for the job:
- Intuitive touchscreen interface: The iPad is easy to swipe, navigate, and tap vs. a computer, which can be especially tricky for kids with fine motor challenges to manipulate and control. Many kids on the spectrum also tend to have trouble understanding prompts and pointing with a mouse, but the iPad resolves that problem with its simple and direct interface.
- Mobility: Kids can take the iPad with them anywhere, at anytime. This means that they no longer have to be confined to their classrooms or one-on-one therapies. Instead, with apps designed for children with ASD (tailored towards an array of skills), they can learn during outings or within the comfort of their own home!
- Kid Magnet: Kids are just automatically drawn to the device! Whenever we whip out our iPads, curious little fingers immediately come crawling onto the screen. We know that these children love to watch videos, play games, and interact with fun and educational apps – there’s so much to choose from and it’s all rolled into one nice package.
- Accessibility & Cost: While the iPad may seem like an expensive purchase for a young child, it can actually replace super pricey augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, which typically run between $5,000 – $7,000 (cringe!). Yet, we consider an even bigger cost savings when you calculate the tens of thousands of dollars (double cringe!) that families spend a year on one-on-one behavioral therapies.
A couple of months ago, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Shannon Des Roches Rosa, renowned author, autism advocate, and parent of a child with ASD who wrote The iPad: A Near Miracle for My Son With Autism. She’s a firm believer that the iPad has empowered her son with a sense of independence, creativity, concentration, and calm. Much to our delight, he’s a big fan of Go Go Games and Shannon says that Leo plays it nearly every day!
We’re excited about the possibilities with the iPad and we can’t wait to explore some of the newest technologies now available to designers and developers like us.
Here’s a genie in the bottle question: If YOU could wish for any kind of app for your child, what would it be?