Using the Ipad To Help Autism
Social interaction and communication are essential characteristics of the human experience. As humans, we desire to create and develop relationships with each other. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological developmental condition that impairs this ability to relate. The spectrum refers to the fact that there are multiple conditions characterized by similar features all grouped together under this one disorder. These conditions include “classic” autism, Asperger syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. There are also varying degrees of severity associated with ASD. So, depending on the disorder and degree to which a person suffers from this disorder, there is truly a wide spectrum of possible conditions created by ASD that many people around the world must deal with.
Autism is usually detectable within the first three years of life due to observation of cognitive symptoms common to most forms of the disorder. Biologically, researchers have found that autistic children often have enlarged cerebral and cerebellar volumes. There has also been some connection with ASD and certain chromosome variations. Autism is most commonly diagnosed through cognitive evaluation, though. The three symptoms that are noted most often are trouble with communication, issues involving reciprocal social interaction, and stereotyped behaviors such as obsession over specific interests and repetition of certain words or actions. Many severely autistic children do not develop speech and, if they do, it occurs at a significantly later time than a child without ASD. Eye contact is rarely made, emotions are not expressed, and there is a noticeable difficulty in understanding other’s feelings and thoughts. Any combination of these symptoms challenges a child’s development and many families are left trying to find an effective way to help their children learn and grow.
This is where the Ipad enters. Steve Jobs has invented some amazing technology. But it is even more impressive when this technology is able to help a child express feelings, words and ideas when this would otherwise be impossible. According to the Center for Disease Control, today 1 in 88 U.S. children in diagnosed with ASD. This is a 78 percent increase from data collected a decade ago. These numbers are astounding. The reason for such an increase is still being explored. Possible explanations include better diagnosis techniques or just a general increase in the number of people born with ASD. With such a high occurrence of autism in the United States and no known cure, more families are exploring different ways of assisting their children. With its sleek appearance and massive number of “apps” the Ipad has become one of these ways to help. In October of 2011 60 Minutes aired a segment about the potential use of the Ipad for teaching autistic children and providing them with a “voice.” I recommend viewing the piece below: