Autism and iPads: amazing things happen

James Kendrick passes along a story of an autistic boy, an iPad acquired by chance, and amazing interactivity between the two. Makes me think of Grace and something I saw on Friday.

The story from SFWeekly centers on BlogHer contributing editor Shannon Rosa and her autistic son Leo. After winning an iPad in a raffle, Shannon handed the device to her son to see if he would respond to it as he had to her iPod touch, which he found interesting but too small to handle. He took to it like a duck to water “spending 30 minutes at a time on apps designed to teach spelling, counting, drawing, making puzzles, remembering pictures, and more” to the stunned delight of his mother.

The full story delves well beyond this single anecdote, covering everything from the Rosas’ daily life to broader discussions on autism to several apps that Shannon and others use to teach and communicate with their autistic children, expanding on what Shannon covered on BlogHer. Having worked with a few autistic children in the past, I have experienced the smallest taste of what it must be like to deal with this way of life and can only imagine the elation Shannon must have felt when Leo started working away on digital puzzles and exercises. While apps like Grace, which we previously covered, turn iDevices into versatile non-verbal communication tools, the simple, intuitive way in which iDevices work allows autistic and other special needs children to do things on their own.

This reminds me of an entertaining dinner I had on Friday. In the back of the restaurant was a family engaged in an obnoxious dispute over something that sounded frivolous, but at an adjacent table, a young couple with a son who could not have been older than three were quietly enjoying their meal. The boy, who made not a peep the whole time, was completely engrossed with an iPhone, either 3G or 3GS, pausing whenever his mother moved to feed him. What’s more is he switched between at least three apps in the time I saw him, all on his own, moving the device and manipulating the screen with each. Whether autistic or not, it really is amazing to see a young child control such an advanced piece of technology so effortlessly.