iPad Changes the World for Kids With Special Needs

Marj Hatzell

iPads: The Next Generation of AACs!
Move over clunky, out-dated talkers! Say So Long to heavy, expensive machines! The iPad is about to rule the world! For kids with special needs, anyway. Yup, there's an app for that.

And, when it comes to your children with special needs, there are MANY apps for that. Parents all over the country have been flocking to Apple stores to check out iPads since their unveiling in April.

Take mom Shannon Rosa, for example. In an article in SF Weekly in August 2010, we read how Shannon won an iPad through a school raffle for which she paid $5. She instantly thought of her son Leo, a mostly non-verbal child of 9 with autism. Leo now uses the iPad for learning, entertainment, communication, social stories and more. Shannon considers the acquisition of Leo's iPad to be nothing short of miraculous. You can read more about Leo's story at squidalicious.com. And, if you'd like to hear Shannon discuss their success with the iPad, you can listen to her interview on KIRO.

The great thing about iPads is that they are more affordable than previous communication devices. They are under $1,000, and you don't have to go through insurance to purchase one. And the apps ... OH, THE APPS. Users may download hundreds of musical, mathematics, spelling, reading, early language and science apps. This is in addition to the hundreds of special needs specific apps that are available. While the iPad wasn't designed with autistic children in mind, the result is that it inadvertently has made life much easier for a variety of children with special needs. The possibilities are endless!

The other benefit to iPads over other devices? Size. Old-style talkers and Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices (AACs) are heavy, expensive, difficult to fix and less portable. iPhones, while app-capable, are too small for some children with special needs due to lack of fine motor skills. iPads are the perfect size. Almost like Goldilocks and the Three Bears!

Best yet? No ridiculously long wait times to borrow a talker or denials from the insurance company.

Can a child with a communication disorder live without an iPad? Yes. But why should they? If there is technology available that can bridge the language gap, why not make it available to them? These devices can mean a world of difference to a child. By using specially designed software, the apps can give a voice to those without one.

The HollyRod Oganization, started by autism mom Holly Robinson Peete and her husband Rodney Peete, is currently accepting donations to help provide iPads for children in need. Donations go DIRECTLY to providing iPads and apps to children with special needs who are financially unable to get one. There's also a link to download an application to receive one should you qualify.

If you have a child with special needs and need resources for apps, check out SLPsharing.com, a resource site for Speech Language Pathologist. There is a list of SLP approved apps and links to their original sources.

Are iPads right for every child? No. It's up to you to take your child to an Apple store and play around with the devices and check them out. It may take a few trips to get an idea of what they can do for your child (try to time your visits at quiet times, if possible. Not that our local Apple store is EVER EMPTY). Try to get the best one you can afford -- the more GB the better. You can upload everything from apps to pictures to social stories to videos and everything in between. Again, your experience may vary, but it's worth checking out. The end result? More independence, the ultimate goal for a child with special needs.

Have you checked out the iPad for your child with special needs?


Image via Marj Hatzell

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