To iPad or to not iPad?

27 Jan

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:


4 Responses to “To iPad or to not iPad?”

  1. Lynn January 30, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    My son is nonverbal, autistic, and 3 1/2 years old and I have recently decided to purchase an iPad with the Tap To Talk app, among others. I also had the same concerns, so I appreciate the advice you gave here. One concern I had that you didn’t mention was this: Will having the AAC app talk for him inhibit his speech? I was told that it was actually the opposite, that having a communication device would probably help him understand that talking will help him get results faster. I am hoping this is true. (His receptive language is great, by the way) Looking forward to future posts!

    • SLP12 January 31, 2011 at 2:29 am #

      Hi Lynn,
      Thanks for bringing up that question! I have been asked that by lots of parents and you are right, all the research shows that communication devices don’t inhibit verbal communication, it will only promote more communication. Can’t wait to hear about your son’s experience with the iPad! It is so nice to have a great alternative to the ridiculously expensive AAC devices that were previously the only option.

  2. Alexis Moore September 29, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Hello. My son is using an ipad and whenever he meet his friends, most of them talked about the games and other apps. I think this is helpful for children who are having a hard time to communicate or to interact to other kids because they can join the conversation and share their thoughts about the games they played.

    • SLP12 September 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      This is very good point. There are even more interactive games for the iPad now. I like the game “What’s in the bag?” for some great language and social interaction.

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