Apps for Autism – iPads for communication.

I thought an update was overdue about my Tom and his use of the iPad as a communication device.  As some of you would be aware Thomas is autistic and is on the spectrum as severe, he is non verbal – which means he cannot or won’t talk to us.  He uses communication pictures to indicate his needs to us.  The usual format for communication pictures is a folder full of small two-inch square laminated pictures, attached to the inner pages of the folder with velcro.  The child chooses a picture and sticks it to a sentence strip on the front of the folder to indicate their needs.  As you can imagine as a child gets older their needs get higher, as do their communication needs so more and more pictures are needed.  This eventually becomes hard to accommodate, and there will come a time when you may not have the communication picture a child wants in the folder.  This will most likely result in stress for the child and probably a meltdown to follow.   This was my big problem. 

Enter the Grace App.   The Grace App is a communication application that looks and acts just like a communication folder, with one huge difference – capacity to hold more pictures than a folder.  I can fit every picture my son needs into this one app.   Thomas has been using the App for sometime now and his response to it has been excellent, we are so happy with it.  He has now started bringing us the iPad or iPod Touch to indicate his needs rather than a communication folder.  The other great thing about the App is we always have a means of communication on us wherever we go, we have it on our iPhones, the iPad and Tom also takes an iPod Touch to school now with the App on it – no more forgotten folders, no more eaten/chewed communication pictures.  You can also add you own pictures to the App so you have consistency, your child can see the same communication pictures at school and home, and you can use whatever type picture suits your childs needs.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am, that Tom’s new school has taken onboard the idea of using a tablet device to communicate.  On his first day of being able to take his iPod Touch to school, they report no meltdowns, awesomeness. 🙂

Now the thing about these devices is that they are obviously fragile.  So you need to get your hands a decent kid proof case.  We use the M-Edge case for the iPad, you can read the post I wrote about it here.  And there are literally millions of iPod Touch cases out there, we are using one like this at the moment, slipped inside a handmade lanyard style case we got from Etsy.   Yes I know this is a link  heavy post, but this is a subject I am rather passionate about.  My goal is to get more services in Australia aware of how these devices can be utilised, with children and adults who have communication needs.  Parents of children with Autism have access to some grants and can use these funds to get these devices.  Unfortunately the process of getting approval for such a device is hard, when the professionals who sign off on the money know very little about how these devices can be implemented.  Australia needs to catch up to the rest of the world on this.  

And now with the release of a new and lighter iPad2 (which incidentally I can’t wait to get my hands on, yes I know I know), things are looking to become more and more portable.  I am so happy with how my children have taken to using the iPad for communication and learning.  My two Autistic toddlers have been using the iPad with Apps teaching them the alphabet and phonics etc, and their progress into talking this past months has really jumped, they’ll be showing me how to do things next!

If anyone would like to chat to me about this further I’d be happy to, just contact me via the about me tab up the top or leave a comment.  Oh and I have not been paid nor received any product in return for this post. 🙂


Filed under Autism, Reviews, Technology/Gadgets

14 Responses to Apps for Autism – iPads for communication.

  1. Ali

    Wonderful news on Tom’s communication Candy.
    It is so positive that his school has embraced and supported him also.
    I too am addicted to my iPhone and allow my children to play apps / watch videos all the time, now onto my 3rd device due to premature wear and tear from the children’s rough handling I now have an appropriate case for my device and I can’t recommend it highly enough.It is the otterbox defender check it out for your next iDevice!

  2. I’m glad that it is working out so well for Tom (and you).

    My 8 yo son and I were in the car last week listening to the ABC chatting to the lady who developed the Grace App. The Boy told me that he really wants me to get that app for our iPad because he thinks it would help him to communicate when he is upset and normally unable to communicate.

  3. Thanks Darl! that is a lovely photograph too. Really looking forward to our update to help with the category sorting etc. Not long now.
    Hiya Sue – that was me on the radio! xx

  4. How fitting that I stumbled across your post today.
    As today I am off for a workshop with Sue Larkey.
    I have a 5 year old boy with Asperger’s and a near 3 year old girl who is awaiting a diagnosis.

    Thank you for sharing

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope you enjoy Sue Larkey, I’ve heard nothing but good things about her stuff.
      Feel free to email me if you have any Q’s about getting diagnosed, it is a tough road sometimes.

  5. Mel Findlater

    A great story, thank you! I am on a similar mission in the UK, as the potential uses of the ipad with people with all sorts of learning difficulties are endless.

    • Thank you Mel. Nice to know I am not the only one, trying to get the idea of using this technology into schools etc.

    • Hiya Mel, if you can get in touch with me at lisaATgraceappDOTcom – there may be a way to get you devices. There is a new charity called Hearts&Minds and they are offering an iPod Touch or iPad in exchange for old cellphones to be recycled. It overcomes the wait for the health services to get you the device you need, and the recycling also makes a donation to the charity that supports kids with autism and heart defects.
      I am trying to help them connect with a few schools and groups to get them started. So Candy, if you can put me intouch with Mel…

      Thanks again, love reading this xx

  6. Mia

    My 5 year old son is diagnosed non-verbal autistic with emerging speech. He is currently using an Ipad that we have had for about a month and we also use the Grace app. I too am trying to research and convince the county board of developmental disabilites that this is a legitimate communication device and not a toy. Oddly enough, they will pay $1500.00 dollars for strictly a communication device that has more bulk, cannot be altered, and doesn’t offer programs specific to autistic children that applications for the Ipad have. Fortunately, soon my son will be tested for Kindergarten readiness at the mainstream school he is attending this fall. I plan to videotape the teacher using an app. to assess him. I will then present this to board members as part of the research I plan to do to show them that the Ipad is more than a communication device, but a way to assess a non-verbal child. With any luck, they will change their way of thinking and provide these to less financially fortunate families.

    • Thank you Mia. I’d really love to hear how it all goes, please come back and let me know. I think your idea to create a demonstration of your son using the iPad, to be shown to those in a position to help get funding, is a great idea.

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