Helen BushApril 24, 2012Edu 201 IPad Use for Children with Special Needs In today’s world the number of students with special needs seems to be growing. Withthe influx of these students in our schools teachers are left with the dilemma of finding the bestway to educate them. Many schools across the country are turning to iPads and other tablets tohelp these students achieve their full potential. The use of touch-screen technology to helpimprove and encourage communication and social skills in children with autism and otherdevelopmental disabilities is being tried in many centers around the country. (Barnett, 2012). TheiPad is easy for the students to use and has many apps that can be used to aid special needsstudents in achieving certain preset goals. There are many upsides to using this technology;however, as with all new technology comes a downside and bugs that must be fixed. According to Apple there are now about 40,000 educational applications for the iPad.(Boyd, 2011). There are so many apps developed specifically to help children with special needsachieve an educational and social equal ground among their fellow peers. In a “60 Minutes”broadcast from October, a 27-year-old autistic boy has learned to use his iPad and the speciallanguage applications his mother installed as a way to communicate what he sees, wants andfeels. Additional apps help him practice making eye contact and identifying other complexemotions. With the help of the device, his mother said her son is communicating fully now andcan be a part of the real world. With the help of an application called iCommunicate, DeJong, theSoutheast Tennessee District autism consultant, is able to see toddlers immediately interact and
respond to images on the tablet, allowing them to feel more in control as the screen reacts to theirtouch, keeping the child engaged and focused. (Barnett, 2012). By using apps that make thestudents more able to control and understand the situation around them we are able to retain theirinterest. It is obvious that if a child feels something is not within their reach they will becomeaggravated, bored or panicked. These feelings make it impossible for anyone to learn. If the iPadhelps to lessen these fears then it is an asset to these students that should not be ignored. Recent reports are indicating an increase in positive results when the iPad is used withchildren with autism, with research showing improvements to a childs willingness to socialize,as well as enhancing the childs attention span. (Barnett, 2012). There are many advantages tousing iPads and other tablets for children with special needs. Educators and parents agree tabletsare growing in popularity for special-needs students because they can be customized to eachchilds needs, are lightweight and mobile, and give the kids the sense theyre plugged into alarger, high-tech community. (Boyd, 2011). Many Parents feel that iPads and other tabletcomputers have given their children with autism a voice they never had. Students with autism arecommunicating in new ways and the secrets of their minds are for the first time, being unlocked.(Shah, 2012). There are so many different apps on the iPad that can address certain areas that astudent may need extra help with. Video can be used to practice social skills. Speech recognitionaids students who have writing difficulties. The touch screen makes use easy for children whohave dexterity problems. One popular application used there is Proloquo2go. Users can selectfrom images on a screen to communicate everything from how theyre feeling to where they wantto go. Students with reading disorders can record lectures and play them back when they gethome. The calendar keeps students with attention deficit disorder very organized. Everything isconsolidated for them on one device: their calendars, memos and notes. (Boyd, 2011). This helps
the students come to class prepared and less panicked that they may have forgotten something.They are no longer feeling rushed or overloaded because everything they need to do is laid outfor them. They are given a structure that they have not had before. It also allows the student towork at their own pace without other students in the class knowing they are falling behind orhaving difficulty with a task, hopefully allowing the student to become less flustered andunembarrassed by their progress. Another benefit is the teacher can get instant feedback on astudent’s progress and immediately see where they are excelling or having difficulty. One of the major problems some are coming across is the lack of research. Thetechnology is fairly new and this means a lack of research. We do not know what the benefitswill be in the long run because we are just now enacting these methods. It is a big unknown if theiPad or other tablets are enhancing what these students are learning or just a new fancy toy formany to play with. Our only option is to wait and see if the results are there. Some members ofthe autism advocacy community are questioning the therapeutic value of iPads. No one hasactually studied which apps have a therapeutic benefit. Parents may hear anecdotes about appsdramatically changing a childs life, but there is no measurable proof that the apps really work.The challenge with many apps is a lot are developed by well-meaning parents but under noguidance with autism experts. For many, it brings in questions such as: Does any of this actuallymake any difference the danger is that the iPad becomes a really expensive toy." (Shah, 2012).There is also a problem with the iPad actually distracting the very students it is suppose to teach.Many of these students already experience problems with focus and concentration. "The darkside of all the bells and whistles is that in some cases its too much, and kids get overly focusedon things that jingle and jangle," said Karen Head, who has created apps to develop childrenssocial interaction skills. "As a therapist, we want them to listen to us." Jennifer Sullivan, the
executive director of the Morgan Autism Center, in San Jose, Calif., which uses iPads and appswith some of its students, told CIO she has found that some children can get drawn to thepatterns in an app rather than actually learning the content it is trying to provide. "Its a little bittricky because its such a compelling medium for kids with autism," she told the magazine, "theywant to do it intensely." (Shah, 2012). It can be extremely difficult in today’s fast paced world to get children to focus and whenyou through in children affected by autism or ADHD it may seem impossible. Even simpletransitions like a change of activity or location can be confusing or frightening to a child withautism. Preparing a child by what is next in their day by showing them photos on the iPad maylessen that anxiety and help the child focus. (Barnett, 2012). Letting the child see what needs tobe done and giving them structure can help motivate and build their self esteem. No child everwants to feel as if they cannot achieve their goals, and the iPad can at least help them see that ifthey work at a steady pace and follow a schedule you can achieve the goals the teacher sets outfor you. However, many people feel the iPad may be another way to distract these already easilydistracted students. They may use their iPads as toys and spend all day playing games or beingoverwhelmed by the many apps on them. I for one say they are a great tool that can be used tohelp a student learn as long as we keep a close watch on how the students are using them. As forthe research only time will tell how much of an impact iPads have on our students’ education.We should at least give iPads the chance to get the research in before we discredit them. If thereis a chance they are helping I believe it is in our best interest to wait until their numbers are inbefore shutting any of these programs down.
Works CitedBarnett, M. (2012, March 13). Siskin Institute Uses IPad2 Technology in New Pilot Program. Retrieved from nooga.com: http://www.nooga.com/154249/siskin-institute-uses-ipad2-technology-in- new-pilot-program/Boyd, A. W. (2011, September 11). usatoday.com. Retrieved from usa today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/special-needs/story/2011-09-11/Adapting-to- the-iPad-called-educations-equalizer/50362426/1Shah, N. (2012, February 17). blogs.edweek.org. Retrieved from edweek.org: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/02/parents_have_told_me_how.html?qs=iPads