Apps and Autism: Mobile Applications and Their Benefits for Exceptional Students

Part Two: Communication and Understanding

In our last entry, we discussed the ways that mobile applications for tablet computers and smartphones can help students with autism by offering an engaging method of developing social skills presented through a medium that appeals to them.  The consistency interactivity of a mobile app is perfectly suited to helping students with autism learn.

There are other areas of difficulty in which a mobile app can helpful for students with autism, and the people in their lives…

  • Students with Autism can Communicate More Effectively. 

In the past, a non-verbal student, like 30% of people with autism, would communicate through a letter or picture board.  A sheet of paper containing the letters A-Z, numbers, a few simple common words like “the” or “is”, or pictures of common objects would be laid out in front of the students, and they would be encouraged to gesture or point to letters or words to communicate.  This could be incredibly frustrating for both parties, and can lead to students retreating, and giving up attempts to communicate.

Tablet computers have changed all of that.  People with Autism are now able to use mobile applications as their voice.  Apps that use an intuitive and interactive menu structure allow people with autism to navigate and select the app’s pictograms with ease.  This has led to a huge change in the quality of life for many people with autism.  They now have a voice, and can make their thoughts and wishes known to those around them.  This has led to the single biggest development for those with autism, their teachers, and their families…


  • Parents and Educators Can Better Understand Children with Autism. 

With new technology, people with autism have been able to learn more effectively, and communicate to those around them.  Educators and families of people with autism are learning what they long suspected; people with autism have a lot more going on in their minds than they are able to portray.

“I always had said when he younger, that he was a computer, and I was computer illiterate, and I didn’t know how to press the right keys to get him to communicate.” said Nancy Hood in a recent 60 Minutes interview.  Nancy, whose 27 year old son, Josh, has been struggling with autism his entire life has, in the last two years, learned more about the inner workings of her son’s mind than she previously thought was possible.  “That was the hard part.  You knew there was more in there, but you didn’t know how to get it out.”

Parents and families are suddenly able to see into the minds of their loved ones with autism.  Through the use of a touch screen, things that have previously been bottled up inside these minds are now able to be shared with those who are closest to them.

Andrew Baxter is a Secondary School Teacher and Curriculum Specialist for Enable Education.  He looks forward to replacing his notepad with an iPad.

Classroom 4 Technology 7

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