iPads got much more to them apart from making kids indulge into Netflix and play candy crush. Or that’s what Ariana Azzato claims in her recent study. Ariana is a graduate student in the College of Health and Human Sciences. Her studies evaluated a treatment package, which is a combo of an iPad application (SPEAKall, with an instructional framework) complemented by reinforcements generated with Autism Nutrition and conventional games used by therapists trained to teach the correct communication skills. The speciality of the app is that it mimics communication techniques applied in day to day scenarios.
Based on past researches that used speech-generating devices and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), her findings are successful in increasing speech-related skills and functional communication in individuals affected by autism. As observed by Oliver Wendt (Assistant Professor of educational studies; advisor on the project), it is the most user-friendly mobile technology that’s also the least expensive and available widely.
Azzato’s observations on the obsession of autistic children with certain routines and their difficulties with sensory responses reveal it’s a hard task for these children to respond properly to certain stimulations. It was even harder with some of the participants initially; however, at the end, most of these children showed significant signs of improvement. Even the completely non-verbal was able to acquire skills to communicate functionally.
Parental involvement is crucial for this iPad based research and will continue to be more and more important in the future. The iPads are a better option since they come cheaper than any of the specialized, communication devices and can be operated much easier for providing consistent interventions, which turns the treatment more effective.
Another point is, the iPads also carry less stigma than the traditional devices and have multiple usages beyond therapy. However, there should be more research to compare iPad treatment to traditional approaches to prove this intervention strategy is more effective than the others. But what raises the hope is children find it fun and motivating and are willing to take turns; even those who are scheduled for some other time.