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Autistic Children Find a Voice Through Ed Tech

We have been talking a lot about Educational Technology; from the use of Classroom Management Systems and the “flipped classroom,” to new web outlets where teachers and students can further discuss homework and projects together online. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we want to shed light on the impact that ed tech has for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability diagnosis in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report that suggests 1 in 50 children have autism (1) and of those diagnosed, roughly 50% have verbal or oral Apraxia, a neurogenic impairment involving planning, executing, and sequencing motor movements (2). In general, children with ASD often find it difficult to communicate effectively – which can be frustrating not only for them, but for their parents and teachers as well.

As an encouraging therapy to these problems, many teachers are now using tablets (iPad, Kindle, Android, etc.) as a means to both educate and encourage children with ASD to improve their communication skills. Using these devices, children diagnosed with verbal or oral Apraxia (who would otherwise have extreme difficulty communicating) are able to show exactly what they want using the tablet’s touch screen.

For example, the app “iAskU” is a great tool for children diagnosed with Apraxia. It allows even a completely Technology and Autism: IAskU appnon-verbal child to communicate through symbols the child chooses in combination with the sentence starter ‘I want’. Once they have chosen what they’d like, they are prompted by the hand in the bottom right corner of the screen to hand the device to an adult. At this point, the adult can select 1 of 3 options – ‘yes’, ‘not available’ or ‘wait’. In the image on the right, the child is asking for milk.

Classroom supervisor, Brendan Considine from The Rich Center for Autism, says the screen is “so visual, large, and bright that it captures [the kids] attention. It is the primary reinforcement as about 80 percent of the kids at The Rich Center are responsive to the iPad.”

Despite the successes that autistic children have shown with the help of this educational technology, there remains a void when class is not in session – they have to give their tablets back. Seeing this problem first-hand, Daniel Simmons, a 14-year old with High-Functioning Autism, sought to make these devices a more permanent fixture for the autistic community.

“I always knew that when I got to my Eagle Scout project that I was going to do something that benefited Autism and it was a thought that just kept reoccurring!” said Daniel. Eager to get this mission off the ground, he teamed up with the Autism Society of Illinois (ASI) to create a fundraiser to sell $2 puzzle pieces (a well-known symbol for autism) for the cause.  Aptly, the project was named “Communication – One Piece at a Time.”  If successful, the proceeds would allow Daniel to provide tablets for qualified autistic children to keep.  And after working hard for three months, Daniel made that happen.

“Never let your disability hold you back!” says Daniel. Through the successes of his “One Piece At A Time” project, his mantra couldn’t have been clearer.  And now, thanks to his efforts, several autistic children will have a chance to be heard as well.

Check out our interview with the Simmon’s family to learn more about Daniel’s Eagle Scout project.


If you’re interested in learning how you can acquire a tablet for your student or child, you can visit Autism Society’s site, where they’ve graciously compiled a list of grant resources.

Applications Recommended:

  • iAskU (by n3o Digital)
  • Conversation Builder (by Mobile Education Store LLC)
  • WordFriend (from PBS Kids)
  • Which Go Together? (from
  • Things That Go Together (from GrasshopperApps)
  • Sort and Categorize Game (from Natural Learning Concepts)
  • Autism Emotion (from Model Me Kids)
  • My PlayHome (by Shimon Young)

If you have an application you want to recommend, write it in the comments section!



1. Blumberg, Stephen J. Ph.D., Bramlett, Matthew D., Ph.D.“Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012.” National Health Statistics Reports. 2013. Web. 29,March.2013.

2. “What is Apraxia." 2009. Web. 29,March.2013.