I will be the first one to tell you that iPads are awesome – no longer will I need to squint in order to see my “Scrabble-inspired” letter tiles in Words with Friends, and Angry Birds Rio in HD is practically a work of art. I also love uplifting, feel-good stories, from The Little Engine That Could to Die Hard 2: Die Harder. However, there does seem to be a prevailing trend in the media to portray the iPad as nothing short of a miracle breakthrough in regards to communication, engagement, and quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorders. While I do realize that the iPad has significant potential as a communication tool, I feel the need to caution against overzealous hype. Much like other tools of the trade, such as flashcards, pacing boards, Go Talk devices, and strawberry-flavored tongue depressors, the potential benefits of using an iPad are determined by how the therapist applies this technology in therapy.
Last weekend, 60 Minutes ran a story about iPad use and ASD – and here a link to the video:
Yes, from the perspective of the news producer at 60 Minutes, this is a fantastic story. The story features the sexy, ground-breaking technology of the iPad, and an uplifting, tear-jerking human interest angle (you might need some hankies if you are the sensitive type). However, myself and my fellow co-workers had some concerns about some of the ways in which iPads were presented in this story. I thank Adam at slowdog for writing this excellent post about his reactions to the 60 Minutes story, which encapsulates many of the factors which let me feeling a tad uncomfortable as an SLP. My main concern is that therapists may begin using the iPad as a “Oh, this child has a diagnosis of ASD, time to whip out the iDevice” crutch in therapy. You may call me a Floortime-zealot if you want, but I believe that nothing is more important that developing strong relationships between the individual with autism and the people in their lives – and just having an iPad will not earn you a relationship with your child.
Posted by: Andy, Speech-Language Therapist