Communication is at the heart of learning. Traditional arguments on whether or not technology can help in education, have become more complex, in the context of children with autism and their communication needs. Much has been discussed about the potential of mobile apps for children with autism, which can be readily seen in the field of communication, particularly augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Mobile devices running these apps have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for those with limited expressive communication skills. But the huge potential of mobile technologies hasn't been fully realized. Rather, these technologies are mainly implemented as speech prostheses in a limited range of activities.
Parents and educators have to broaden the scope of using these devices, not only for using inside the classroom and the therapeutic domain. Practice is the key with apps for children with autism, so that they can successfully use tabs and smart phones as communication aids. All those involved with autistic children should practice using the apps along with the novice learners. Continuous practice should happen both at school and home for successful results.
It's important to remember that apps for children with autism alone can't improve communication. A supportive environment which complements the app is crucial in this regard. The symbol system used in apps for children with autism, has to be incorporated into a wider environment with which the autistic child has to eventually cope up with. Collaboration with parents is another important aspect to ensure a consistent approach towards core word modeling outside the school. Parents are often reluctant to use apps for children with autism as a potential communication aid, hoping that language and communication skills would automatically develop down the years. There are around 250,000 words in the English language. About 200 of these words constitutes 80% of our everyday use.
A common concern among parents of autistic children is that their child may become over-reliant on these apps for communication. Studies, however, have revealed that apps for children with autism, both high and low-tech, help to kick start speech. For many autistic children who are unlikely to speak ever because of language reproduction difficulties, these apps can become their voice. Use of synthesized, rather than digitized speech, has come a remarkably long way over the past several years, allowing apps for children with autism to sound more natural and personal.
Many autistic children use associative instead of linear thinking. Strong image processing skills allow them to associate symbols with words. It helps them to get a sense of the world around them, become language competent, and allow greater access to parts of the curriculum they previously couldn't. If there's a nonverbal or a minimum-speaking child in your classroom, apps for children with autism can help him / her pick up communication skills.
But at the same time, it's important to remember that an app user can't pick up communication skills overnight. It'll take time for both the child and his / her communication partner to master the app. Be patient and with time and you can see the benefits.