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How iPads can support learning for students with autism

Lesson personalization, interactivity can improve student engagement and social skills

How iPads can support learning for students with autism

iPads can help engage and encourage students with autism, special-education teachers say.

Ed-tech advocates are discovering the numerous benefits that mobile devices, including iPads, can have for students. But a growing number of special-education teachers are finding that iPads can have a positive effect on their students with autism in particular.

Students with autism often have trouble communicating and might struggle with transitions, such as changing classes, getting on a school bus, or taking a field trip. A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last April indicated that one out of every 88 children is believed to have autism or fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Karina Barley, an Australian special-education teacher who runs Project Autism Australia, uses iPads with her students on the autism spectrum. Handheld devices such as the iPad offer students with autism the chance to personalize their learning while moving at their own pace, and the larger screen (when compared to a smart phone) makes it easy for them to manipulate various apps.

“They have fantastic implications,” Barley said. “One of the greatest things about them is that you can use iPads across lots of curriculum areas. I saw significant improvements in my kids within the first term.”

Barley uses iPads to teach math and English/language arts (ELA), and for customized learning programs based on each student’s individual needs. While some of her students with autism traditionally struggle with concentration, Barley said introducing the iPads caused a marked change.

(Next page: Popular iPad apps for teaching ELA and math)

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  1. newteacherhelp

    January 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I recently viewed a webinar by Ms. Barley on that dealt with this subject. Not only did Karina have effective strategies to help students with Autism by using the iPad, she had an extensive list of apps I could download for free that I could use immediately! She is the #1 authority I have found on using technology to reach students with Autism!

  2. jessie586

    January 31, 2013 at 1:02 am

    With an personalized learning environment and educators’ effort like Barley did, they connect the special learners to this world in personalized ways. There is so much to learn from Barley.

  3. karinabarley

    January 31, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Please note that I have an e course on iPads in education – at

    This course will teach you how to use ipads and applications to the oommon core and you can also apply for university credit for this course.

    Karina Barley

  4. cnealon

    February 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Educational technology is shown to not only offer an educational experience of high enjoyment and engagement, but also a monumental stepping stone from introversion towards communicative expression for all children, especially those with special education needs. Check out a truly inspirational story:

    Learn from the experts about Tech and Autism: