I Can’t Read Without My Glasses (an analogy)

By Lois Jean Brady, Author of Apps for Autism – www.itherapyllc.com


If you take my glasses away – I can’t read

If you encourage me – I still can’t read

If you give me a verbal model, I know what to say – but I still can’t read

If you give me cues or prompts, I have an idea of what to say – but I still can’t read

If you offer chips and skittles (reinforcers), I still won’t be able to read

If you test me, I will fail and be labeled illiterate or, worse, cognitively delayed

I may referred to resource or special education

If you give me my glasses

I can read!

Same is true for all assistive technology —

Glasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and, yes, iPads are essential pieces of equipment that are used to increase, maintain or improve abilities. For individuals on the autism spectrum technology has become essential for communication.  The phrase, “I can finally see how smart he/she is,” has become a common revalation for parents and educators alike. The iPad is not only a means to communicate, but teaches literacy and many crucial academic skills like math and science.

“What we’re finding is that a lot of these people (nonverbal) have a good brain hidden inside, and technology allows them to express themselves… and I think that’s wonderful.”

-Dr. Temple Grandin

Research has shown that using iPads can increase communication, (Kasari, Kaiser, Landa, 2013) academic responding (Hart & Whalon, 2012), behavior  ( Neely,  Rispoli, Camargo, Davis,  Boles), social interactions (Hourcade, Williams, Miller, Huebner, Liang, 2013), and enhance learning opportunities for students with disabilities, (Cumming).

girlSince its release in April 2010, the iPad has quickly become one of the most effective, motivating, indispensible learning tools ever for those on the autism spectrum — and just about everyone else!  In the past few years, we have seen an explosion in what mobile technology has to offer for the special needs population. Apple has incorporated terrific accessibility features, developers have created a plethora of fantastic apps, and companies are producing accessories to meet the needs of every user. But, the most impressive of all, is the way this technology is opening new possibilities for the special needs population: many users are showing capabilities that defy our expectations. Non-verbal individuals are communicating; some are writing blogs, even books! Students who would not touch a pencil began tracing letters on apps and can now write not only letters and words, but sentences! Others are developing speech, becoming literate, acquiring social skills, and just plain excited to learn. As a matter-of-fact, many are using educational apps as reinforcers: they are essentially working to “work.” The iPad is so appealing, I have not had to open a bag of Skittles or chips in years — these are boring, compared to a new app. It has truly been an exciting few years.

Please keep all assistive devices well within reach of the individuals who rely on technology to communicate and learn.
Hart, J., and Whalon, J., (2012). Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities Vol. 47, No. 4, Special Conference Issue Research to Practice pp. 438-446Cumming, T., School of Education, University of New South Wales, rm 129 John Goodsell Building, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

Hourcade, J., Williams, S.,  Miller, E., Huebner, K., Liang, L., (2013). Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Pages 3197-3206,New York, NY, USA

Kasari, C., Kaiser, A., & Landa, R. (2013, November 12). IPads help late-speaking children with autism develop language. Retrieved August 2, 2016, from http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2013/11/ipads-autism-language

Kasari, C, Kaiser, A., & Landa, R. (2009). Developmental and Augmented Intervention for Facilitating Expressive Language. Sponsored by Autism Speaks, Grant 5666.

Murphy, S.A. (2005). An experimental design for the development of adaptive treatment strategies. Statistics in Medicine, 24, 1455-1481.

Neely, L.,  Rispoli, M.,  Camargo, S.,  Davis, H.,  Boles, M., (2012). Texas A&M University, United States Received 2 October 2012, Revised 12 December 2012, Accepted 14 December 2012

Schlosser, R., Wendt, O (2008). Effects of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on speech production in children with autism:  A systematic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17 , 212–230.


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