The iPad is emerging as an effective tool for teaching autistic children communication and social skills. SF Weekly has posted lengthy profile of Leo, an autistic child whose mother won an iPad in a raffle and subsequently found herself amazed by her son’s progress with the device. “Before the iPad, Leo’s autism made him dependent on others for entertainment, play, learning, and communication,” Shannon Rosa wrote for BlogHer. “With the iPad, Leo electrifies the air around him with independence and daily new skills.” Leo is using the device for video watching, drawing—something that had been very difficult before—and for using spelling apps like FirstWords and more specialized apps like Stories2Learn and First Then Visual Schedule.
While only one study is currently looking at the iPad for use with autistic children, early results are positive. Rhonda McEwen, an assistant professor at the iSchool at the University of Toronto who is running the study “Touch Technologies in the Classroom,” said that teachers have reported lengthening attention spans, children sitting next to each other to use the device together—atypical for autistic students—and in one case, allowed a breakthrough for a teacher who had been working with a boy for two years and was unsure of whether he understood language. “With the iPod, for the first time, he was able to demonstrate that he did understand,” McEwen said. While the Rosas want to be careful not to overhype the iPad before science proves its worth, for the time being, they are thrilled with the results. “I don’t usually dabble in miracle-speak,” said Shannon Rosa, “but I may erect a tiny altar to Steve Jobs in the corner of our living room.” [via Daring Fireball]