Using a computer tablet may help kids with autism speak and interact, according to new research. When the tablet is added to traditional therapies, language development and social interaction improve.
A comparison of language and social communication was done with and without access to an IPad computer tablet. 61 children with an autism spectrum disorder participated;. They found that the device boosted overall effectiveness of the traditional treatment.
“All the children improved, but they improved more if they had access to the iPad,” said Connie Kasari, professor of human development and psychology and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
The children used the iPad when they were engaged in play, she said. “It focused on helping them initiate conversation, using the iPad to comment on what they were doing. The iPad worked because it is a visual stimulant with auditory feedback,” she explained. For instance, children would mispronounce a word, hear it pronounced correctly on the iPad, and then learn to say it correctly, she said.
The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization, funded the study.
Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disorders. Communication and social problems are hallmarks of ASDs. As many as one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children in the study were between the ages of 5 and 8. All were considered “minimally verbal,” which experts define as speaking fewer than 20 functional words, Kasari said. “The majority had far fewer.”