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Autism, Meet your Archenemy: Apple iPad

Apple’s Chief Executive Steve Jobs believes the iPad is a magical device, and a growing number of parents of children with neurodevelopmental disorders or disabilities agree. The iPad has many advantages to offer to people who use them—primarily teens to middle-aged adults, however, more children are reaping the benefits and improving in many—if not all—developmental domains using educational and interactive apps.

In an interview, Jobs stated that the iPad’s use in therapy was not something Apple engineers could have predicted. According to a CDC study, with Autism affecting one out of 88 children in the U.S., children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have no control over the pace of information coming at them, however, children with ASD are not distracted by context and the iPad gives them more direct control over the interface.


There are a growing number of iPad workshops for educators, teachers, and or parents with special needs children. In the Bay Area, the most talked about organization that hold assistive technology workshops are: Parents Helping Parents (PHP) in San Jose, CA. and Via Services in Santa Clara, CA. The iPad workshops explore ways to enhance communication, learning, and socialization skills.

Via Services held their second, successful iPad workshop on March 26th and plan to hold more workshops in the future. PHP continues to have assistive technology events; their next workshop will be on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 focusing on high-tech tools for literacy.

Darryl Guel*, a 2-year-old boy with autism who attended an iPad workshop for children with Autism expertly swipes his fingers through different apps and impresses everyone with his receptive comprehension skills. Guel, who has not developed expressive language, mastered Color Slapps’s app identifying all of the colors; and can accurately point to shapes, colors, and groups (e.g. alphabet, food, body parts, etc.) in the SeeTouchLearn app.

Neil Tafolla*, a 2.5-year-old boy with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) has cognitive skills of an average six-year-old with the help of the iPad and a strong team of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists incorporating technology into therapy. He is currently adding and subtracting through quantitative counting of animals through Duck Duck Moose’s app: Park Math HD and reading interactive books designed to keep children engaged and learning.

Not only does the iPad serve as an educational device, the flexibility and portability offers advantages. Several parents have reported that the iPad serves as a calming instrument for children when they need to redirect their focus onto something more productive.

Educators and doctors are using the iPad as a tool to reach out to special needs children; children are showing tremendous improvement after interacting with fun-filled educational activities which makes it less stressful and more fun for teachers and students.

Autism has definitely met its nemesis…

*Names have been changed to protect the identity


Child-with-ipad. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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