An interview with Phyllis Kupperman, executive director of the Center for Speech and Language Disorders in Elmhurst, Illinois (www.csld.org) highlighted some of the exciting ways that iPads are being used in therapeutic settings. (Disclosure: Phyllis is part of my family)
Thirty two years ago when the clinic was established, computers were only beginning to be part of the educational scene. The clinic's first computer was an AppleIIe. There were some readers on CD's, mostly by Mercer Mayer and Dr. Seuss, and there were some games. The population that the clinic serves is 60% on the autism spectrum and 40% with other language and learning issues. The computer which was part of the therapeutic setting was a great tool for learning but one of the drawbacks was the mouse. Children with poor motor control sometimes took months to master the use of the mouse. The iPod touch was a great advance because it could be manipulated with just a finger but the small size gave it limited usefulness. The larger iPad screen and the explosion in the availability of apps made it an ideal addition to the therapeutic setting. Even kids that have a lot of physical and cognitive challenges benefit from it. An emphasis on repetition and predictability, language patterns, social interactions, cause and effect, problem solving and communication are just a few of the areas that iPad apps can address.
Here are some of the apps that Phyllis has found useful:
Talking Tom Cat: repeats what you say
Tap to Talk: communication device
DoodleFind: visual scanning, attention to detail
First Words and I Write Words
For older kids: Chicktionary, Angry Birds, Hangman
Model Me: for acclimation to social situations
There are lots of sites with reviews of iPad apps for kids with autism. Just two:
ICDL, children's library at http://en.childrenslibrary.org/
Phyllis would like to see more apps that have untimed games, more games that focus on facial expressions and emotions, and conversational patterns.