By: Kate Dansereau
I hear it so often: “We NEED an iPad!” Everyone thinks that their son, daughter, student, classroom, consumer, etc. needs to have an iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I love the iPad. I think it is an excellent piece of technology and has many uses that can support individuals with Autism. I think Apple has been receptive and proactive in customizing and adapting settings for the iPad for people living with disabilities. I think there are many app developers who have created comprehensive and robust apps specifically for people with Autism. However, I do not think that the iPad is the answer for everyone. I also think before anyone pursues getting an iPad for a person with Autism, they need to consider the following questions:
- Is the iPad the right fit for this person? We all know that when it comes to Autism, there is no cookie cutter approach. So why are we looking at Assistive Technology (AT) as a one size fits all approach? There are many things to consider when looking to obtain AT for a person with Autism. There are many different types of technology available and the iPad is just one of many. The iPad utilizes a touch technology. This is very intuitive and immediate platform. For some people this is great. For others, it is not a good fit. It requires fine motor control to isolate the spot to touch and then additional motor control to press and release at the right spot with the proper timing. Touch and swipe is not necessarily an easy gesture for all to perform (just ask my Mom trying to look at pictures on my smartphone.) There are many other platforms to consider including computers, stand alone communication devices and even low tech solutions like visual schedules made on good old laminated paper and Velcro.
- What do you want this person to be able to accomplish with the iPad that they are unable to perform now? I think this is probably the most unasked question in AT. I have met so many people who needed to have an iPad in their life and it has become either abandoned or a very expensive Angry Birds handheld game. It is crucial to know exactly what you are hoping to achieve by integrating an iPad into a person’s life.
- Can everyone receive proper training? It is very important that not only the person using the iPad, but also the people who support them receive proper training on using the iPad to the best of it’s ability. I have also met many people who think since they own an iPad or an iPhone that they know all they need to know. I have also yet to meet someone with that belief that I haven’t been able to teach something new to. It is so important for support people and family to understand why the person is using the technology in order to support them effectively. There needs to be a unified belief and approach across environments in order for the use of any AT system to be successful and sustainable.
- Will the person like this technology? If a person needing support does not like the device you are asking them to use, they will not use it. It’s unfair of us to assume that they would, just because it is available to them
There are many more considerations to keep in mind when choosing technology as a support for a person with Autism. This process should really be guided by an Assistive Technology Professional who can perform the proper assessments and provide some trials and support.