5 steps to maximize iPads for students with autism

1. Know why you chose the iPad.

One of the reasons Gerke chose the iPad was because of the SETT Framework,which urges educators to choose technology and practices that suit the student. The framework asks educators to consider the student’s abilities, the student’s learning environment, the task the student is being asked to complete, and the tools the student has or may need to complete the task.

Because the iPad has many features that work within SETT, such as portability, a tactile surface, the ability to engage many learners, and the non-stigma of being a socially acceptable device, the iPad can be an ideal choice for students with autism, and other students in general.

“The iPad is also very visual, which is good for special needs learners, because many fall into the VIM/VEM/VOM chart, or need a combination of the Visual Instruction Mode, a Visual Expression Mode, and a Visual Organization Mode,” explained Gerke.

Also, for classrooms using an iPad2 or iPad Mini, both support iOS6, which allows for Guided Access—a feature that locks students into the app the teacher has chosen for them to use.

How to use Guided Access

[field name=iframe2]


There are also two resources available for educators and administrators interested in using iPads for autism that Gerke recommends for those who’d like to learn more about what the device is capable of: “iPads 4 Special Needs,” a free eBook, and “Accessibility Features of iOS for the iPad and iPhone,” a free course provided by udemy.

2. Incorporate methods.

If you don’t know the purpose of the activity, learning progress may not always occur, noted Gerke.

“What is your purpose in the iPad activity? Is it a game for relaxation and leisure? Maybe a transitional activity? Or maybe an academic or behavioral support? There must be a purpose behind the activity,” he said.

Gerke recommended The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders’ evidence-based practice list that provides practices on visual supports, video modeling, computer-aided instruction, social narratives, and much more. Altogether, there are 24 unique evidence-based practices.

3. Plan for success.

According to Gerke, one of the best ways to ensure student learning success is to communicate your expectations with students.

“Tell your student the purpose of the iPad activity. For example, this is for work time, or this is for play time, or we’re doing this activity because X. Also, set a time limit for the activity, let students know what are acceptable activities and what are not, and always have a transition plan. Having a transition plan means knowing how you are going to get your students off of the iPad; this can be difficult and my advice is to follow up an iPad activity with another engaging activity to make the transition easier.”

(Next page: Materials and measuring progress)

Meris Stansbury

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.