Find teaching methods to reach students on the autism spectrum or with other developmental delays, many of whom are non-verbal.
Use iPads and specialized apps to help students communicate and interact with others. Stacie Carroll, OCT, and Sabrina Morey, OCT, say their favourite apps include PlayBoard (aardustry.com) for communication, ABA Receptive Identification by Noun (kindergarten.com) and Sound Shaker (tickletapapps.com) for “sheer enjoyment.”
It’s crucial to match each student with the appropriate apps — otherwise it’s just an exercise in frustration. Carroll and Morey use an online assessment tool called The Communication Matrix (communicationmatrix.org) to get a clear picture of each child’s level of achievement. After learning iPad “pre-skills,” such as how to use the touch screen, students use the apps to express themselves to teachers and fellow students, and to perform curriculum-based learning activities. “We can match each child’s IEP goals with the apps we’re using to teach,” says Morey.
A University of Toronto study found that students’ ability to identify pictures increased by 45–60 per cent during a six-week period when using touch-screen technology. It also noted significant improvements in the students’ attention spans.
Teachers have been amazed by the abilities, emotions and personalities that have emerged since their students began using iPads. Morey recently assessed a non-verbal four-year-old who didn’t appear to understand simple vocabulary. “Using the iPad he was able to demonstrate that he knew 19 of the 20 words we tested. I had no clue that he had that much vocabulary. The only word he got wrong was milk — he kept pressing the picture of the cow.”
Carroll says the devices have also improved social skills. “A lot of our students find it challenging to be engaged with other people, but they are willing to spend more time with others gathered around the iPad. We have seen that translate into other areas of the classroom too, with things like learning to share and waiting your turn.”
Helpful hints Widespread media attention (Beverley PS was featured on 60 Minutes) may give the impression that results come quickly, but they don’t. Expect students to take at least six weeks to make any progress, and real breakthroughs can take many months. Having specific teachers to stay with the program and a committed principal is crucial.
YOU CAN DO IT TOO
- an Apple iPad
- screen protector and case (soft foam works best)
- an Apple ID for the school
- a computer to sync with the iPad
- an interactive whiteboard that connects to the iPad (if working with more than one student at a time)
- accessories for students with visual or hearing impairment (such as an FM transmitter that works with a hearing aid)
- assess students’ individual abilities and needs
- download and purchase appropriate apps (typically $1.99 to $4.99, though some have free trial versions)
- teach students basic iPad skills (guiding their hands to pictures on the touch screen if necessary)
- teach students to use specific apps
- carefully collect data about students’ progress
Widespread media attention (Beverley PS was featured on 60 Minutes) may give the impression that results come quickly, but they don’t. Expect students to take at least six weeks to make any progress, and real breakthroughs can take many months. Having specific teachers to stay with the program and a committed principal is crucial.