Autism Researchers Turn Their Attention to The iPad’s Potential

Autism Researchers Turn Their Attention to The iPad's PotentialThe Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that University of Kansas researchers have received a $1.2 million grant to embark on a study that could show whether or not an iPad voice output application can help children with autism.

“The researchers will train preschoolers with autism and their classmates to use the app,” the paper reports. “The researchers want to determine whether the technology can improve their deficits in communication, social reciprocity and play skills.”

University of Kansas assistant research professor Kathy Thiemann-Bourque is hopeful that the research will lead to a positive outcome for children with autism.

“Many young children with developmental disabilities (DD) have significant delays in social, communication, and play skills,” Thiemann-Bourque once explained. “For those children learning to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), successful social interactions with peers will require explicit instruction on the same system for both communication partners. Peer-mediated (PM) interventions are recommended best practice based on more than 30 years of research with young children with autism and other DDs. Integrating direct AAC instruction within PM programs to advance social reciprocity in typical preschool routines is a necessary and important next step for young AAC users.”

Thiemann-Bourque will lead the four-year study.

With funding from the grant making this research possible, we’re told that researchers will train four-dozen preschoolers with autism and more than 100 of their peers without disabilities to use an iPad voice output app. By the conclusion of the study, researchers will be able to assess if and how use of the iPad improved difficulties in communication for the children with autism.

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