Ann Kaiser at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of education and human development reported using speech-generating devices to encourage children ages 5 to 8 to develop speaking skills resulted in the subjects developing considerably more spoken words compared to other interventions.
"For some parents, it was the first time they'd been able to converse with their children," Kaiser said. "With the onset of iPads, that kind of communication may become possible for greater numbers of children with autism and their families."
With the availability of apps that use symbols, gestures, pictures and speech output, the iPad offers a more accessible and more user-friendly way to help minimally verbal children with autism to communicate, she said.
"When we say a word it sounds a little different every time, and words blend together and take on slightly different acoustic characteristics in different contexts," Kaiser said. "Every time the iPad says a word, it sounds exactly the same, which is important for children with autism, who generally need things to be as consistent as possible."
An additional benefit of using the iPad is that it is far less stigmatizing for young people with autism who rely on them for communicating with fellow students, teachers and friends, she said.