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Are iPads and Tablets Helpful for Autistic Children?

October 9, 2023

An autism mom shares how using an iPad has benefited her daughter and offers tips for fellow parents.

Are iPads and Tablets Helpful for Autistic Children?

As a parent of a child with ASD, I must say that when my autistic daughter first interacted with an iPad, I really had mixed feelings. Will it damage or will it help?

But, almost five years since she was diagnosed, I can say that my daughter benefited from using it. For example, her tablet actually helped when I was potty training her. When we started the training, she also started watching videos on YouTube about a little girl who needed to go to the toilet but couldn’t find one. So I think my daughter got the sense of the urgency that is implied in the process.

There are so many useful ways to use an iPad. It is important to point out that supervision is vital when it comes to iPad use. If a child watches a video, you can repeat some of the words mentioned in the video to foster language skills. You can also point, say, and repeat the name of a color. 

Many digital activities can be useful educational tools. Depending on the learning level of the child, you can start with simple things, as I’ve mentioned before, or you can do more complicated ones, like asking questions. Start with questions that require a one-word answer or questions that merely require the child to point—you can work your way up to open-ended questions.

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From my experience, I’ve learned to never give up. Most of the time it will seem like your child is not acknowledging your efforts, or possibly just plain ignoring you. Believe me, the child is listening to you and sooner or later, all the effort you put into the activity will pay off.

I always thought my daughter was ignoring me when I was showing her the little ducks that don’t come back and pointing out the color yellow. Until one day when out of the blue, she pointed to a book cover and she said “Yellow.” It was the best kind of music to my ears.

The tablet also had a positive impact on my daughter’s speech. At first, she started copying what different characters were saying. It was like a miracle when she first said words that were pronounced almost correctly. At that point, anything was better than babbling. But after some time, she realized that those words need to be used at certain times. She is still not talking 100 percent or using the right words at the right time, but the progress she has made is real.

I am not saying it is ok for our children to spend all day in front of the TV or watching their tablets. All I am saying is that, when it comes to my own daughter’s progress, I need to give some credit to her iPad.

I know that some parents are totally against iPads and tablets. I am not saying that I know better. Just don’t immediately dismiss anything without researching possible benefits for yourself. Give it a go. Watch them react and interact in the new situation. Even if all I get is a smile or a bit of eye contact, that is more than okay with me!

Using an iPad with your child on the spectrum 

Here is a list of iPad/tablet activities that could benefit your child. These ideas are implemented at the special school where I work, and my daughter has reaped the benefits of some of these digital activities:

  • Watch clips that have just a few words that keep repeating (useful for developing speech)
  • Watch clips that show imaginative play (useful for roleplay)
  • Play simple digital games that require turn-taking (a very important concept that sometimes seems difficult to grasp)
  • Find apps that involve shape or letter tracing
  • Enjoy clips that show easy dance routines

Don’t forget! The learning process is a team game. As parents or carers, we need to be there to repeat, to accentuate, to emphasize, to model, to correct. Our children deserve the world and more. They deserve our hard work. 

Have faith. I know for a fact that the tunnel is long but, believe me, there is a very bright light at the end of it.

This article was featured in Issue 125 – Unwrapping ABA Therapy

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