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A Pediatric Perspective

iPad and Increased Vocalization in Children with Autism

Published January 2, 2014 9:29 AM by Wendy Spoor-Hof
OT in the News shared information recently on a new pilot study that found children with autism had increased vocalization with the help of augmentative apps used on iPads. 

The study found that children between the ages of 5-8 that were able to use iPads to help them communicate vocalized more words than children in the same age range who used other therapies to help increase their vocalization.  The study went on to explain that the belief for the increased vocalization is due to the fact that the iPad app will say the same word the same way each time. Why this is found to be more effective is believed to be because when we (therapists, parents, etc.) work on speech with children with autism our voices do not always say the word in the same way each time. Our voice may change in tone or manner and/or the child may hear it differently depending on what is going on around them. Children with autism do better with consistency and when they hear the same word the same way each and every time on the iPad they are better able to imitate it.  With the success of the first pilot study a new five-year study is now being set up and supported by the National Institutes of Health's Autism Centers of Excellence with colleagues at UCLA, University of Rochester (N.Y.) and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

I have no doubt that with this new finding iPads and other tablet devices will be in greater demand. What is nice about the use of an iPad or other tablet is that they are usually less expensive than your typical augmentative device and they are widely accepted among peers so the children who will use them will not feel they "stand out" so much.   

Once concern families may have is the cost. Even though the tablets tend to be less expensive they can still be more than what some families can afford. Thankfully there are several organizations who will help with funding for iPad/tablets for children with disabilities. Families can check out the following websites and follow their instructions to apply for funding:

Autism Society- Funding for iPads

Bridging Apps - list of funding sources available for children with disabilities looking to get an iPad/tablet/augmentative device

Autism Support Network   also has an article on the 5 steps to getting an iPad covered by your insurance. 

I know for many parents who have children with autism who are not speaking or have a very limited vocabulary this new study's results will be promising news. I'm sure it will be the same for the numerous teachers and therapists who work with children on the spectrum. Any opportunity we have to help a child learn to communicate is an opportunity worth seeking out as it will not just help cut down on the child's frustration but will also help to bring the family closer and help the parents/care givers know what is needed, what is wrong, what they can do to help, and just "talk" with their child.

Have you worked with an iPad or other tablet device with a child on the autism spectrum?  How has it worked for you?  What applications have you found to be most successful? 

Please join me next week when we look at some of the apps that are out there for children with limited vocabularies that have been found to be successful.

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