Autism and iPads? Opinions differ

Socializing and technology need to work together

The iPad is likely on many children’s Christmas list, but there is a debate over whether that’s the best gift for a child with autism.

There are several apps on the iPad that are marketed for children with autism. Judy Lehner, a Marion resident with grandchildren with autism, said her grandchildren enjoy watching Disney videos on it and find a lot of terrific subject matter, including reading apps.

MyAutismTeam.com, a social network designed for parents of children with autism, recommended the iPad along with LEGOs, sensory toys, video games and gift cards with which to download apps and movies.

Kathryn Miller Dove of the Meredith College Autism Program said the program does not recommend the iPad, nor electronics or television games. Dove said in an email that the reason is “the isolation of social skills these types of toys bring. We encourage toys that are problem-solving in nature and can be shared by others to promote social skills.”

Among its recommendation are toys easy to put together, like ring stackers, puzzles, nesting and stacking blocks and shape sorters for limited skilled children with the mental age of 12-24 months.

Pattern blocks, Barnyard Bingo, Mr. Potato Head and musical instruments are good for children with medium skills, or the mental ages of 2 1/2 to 5 years old.

Dove suggests games and toys like Guess Who, farm sets, toy doctor’s kits and bowling sets for children with higher skills, between the mental age of 5-8 years.

Kevin McDaniel, an intervention specialist at Elgin West Elementary, uses the iPad with his students and recommends it for children with autism.

“Like most children, children with autism enjoy learning and having fun with technology,” he said. “If you are planning on purchasing an iPad for a child with autism, not only can you entertain them, but you can also use the iPad to benefit their educational growth.”

McDaniel suggests the following educational apps:

• MADAddition

• Sushi Monster

• Phonics Tic Tac Toe

• Scholastic Storia

• Kids Learn Sight Words

• Photo Touch ABC

• Smarty Pants School

• Toontastic

He also suggests entertainment apps Angry Birds, Temple Run, Dr. Seuss Band and PBS Kids.

Brad McGarry, director of the Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., said he agrees that sometimes electronic toys can decrease socialization. He said, though, that he has used apps on the iPad to help his 10-year-old son with autism.

“The apps we are using are very, very social,” he said.

McGarry said it’s more about how the parent uses the device with the child, suggesting that they should limit the amount of time the child uses the device.

It should not be used as a replacement for interaction with people.

kdmoore@marionstar.com

via Autism and iPads? Opinions differ | The Marion Star | marionstar.com.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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