I was recently asked by a parent of one of my preschoolers with autism whether I thought it was a good idea to get her son an iPad. I am a big proponent of using technology whenever possible if it can add to a student’s communication skills so my initial response was “Go for it! What a lucky 4 year old!” There are already many apps available geared to preschoolers’ academic learning and more apps arriving everyday focusing on communication skills.
After I thought about the question some more though I realized that the wonders of the iPad can also be a reason to be cautious when giving a child with autism access to one. The area that I think we need to proceed with caution about is whether an iPad is interfering with social interactions and learning in the “real world”. Because social interactions and pragmatic language can be such major areas of weakness for children with autism, if the iPad is becoming an additional thing pulling a child away from people interactions then a big red flag has been raised in my mind.
I would still recommend the iPad as a tool for learning with kids with autism as long as some important points are remembered:
- Limit the amount of time a child spends on the iPad
- Use the iPad as a reinforcer not the primary toy a child uses
- If your child is showing less interest in other toys and interactions with people it may be necessary to take away access from the iPad completely
- Look for apps that focus on areas of weakness for your child. The link below has a great list of apps for children with autism: