Using an iPad to Change the Lives of People with Autism

Steve Jobs left us with amazing technology – the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad have changed how many of us communicate every day. But his technology wasn’t just all about business (checking your email from your phone, to name one example) or fun (playing Angry Birds on your iPod or iPad). Many applications – apps – that work on Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad are changing lives for people who have difficulty speaking, including people with autism.

A recent “60 Minutes” segment, “Studying Autism and iPads,” showed how autistic children show remarkable interest in the iPad and its touch-and-swipe screens. With specially designed apps, these tablet computers are helping people with autism communicate.

The app showcased in the segment is Proloquo2Go ($189.99 in the Apple iTunes store). It provides natural-sounding text-to-speech voices, nearly 8,000 up-to-date symbols and a large default vocabulary. Users touch the symbols to express their thoughts, wants and ideas. The app utilizes colorful stick-figure illustrations to give a voice to people who have a hard time communicating.

Other popular speech apps include:

Grace ($37.99). This allows special-needs children to communicate through complete sentences by linking together colorful images and symbols in this fully customizable application. What’s interesting about Grace is that the simple picture exchange system was developed by and for non-verbal people, allowing a user to communicate needs by building sentences from relevant images. The picture and photo vocabulary can be customized.

iCommunicate ($49.99). This app allows people design visual schedules, storyboards, communication boards, routines, flash cards, choice boards, speech cards and more. Other cool features of this app include recording your own audio for pictures and boards and utilizing text-to-speech with 20 voice options.

Thanks to Jobs’ innovations at Apple, many people are able to do things that were unimaginable just a few decades ago.

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