iBooks help autistic children speak early

iBooks help autistic children speak early

Speech-generating devices such as read-aloud interactive books on iPads help children develop speaking skills a study found. The study funded by Autism Speaks found that use of read-aloud books is more effective that other interventions when it comes to developing speaking skills and results in children being able to learn more spoken.

With the help of electronic books all the children in the study learned new spoken words and several learned to produce short sentences as they moved through the training.

“For some parents, it was the first time they’d been able to converse with their children,” said Kaiser, Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development at Peabody. “With the onset of iPads, that kind of communication may become possible for greater numbers of children with autism and their families,” she added.

A screenshot of our electronic book A Big Surprise of Little Shrew

Developers of tablet platforms and electronic readers such as Apple, Google, Sony, Kobo are making their devices compatible with ePub, a universal electronic book publishing format that allows books to have interactive features. In its latest iteration – Epub3 – epub employs latest development in the web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, Javascript to produce engaging reading experience. Although very similar in their outward appearance ePub books are much easier to develop, hence are less expensive.

Augmentative and alternative communication devices, as speech therapists call them, employ symbols, gestures, pictures and speech output have been used for decades by people who have difficulty speaking.

Rapid advance of tablet devices makes these speech therapy techniques more accessible, cheaper and more user-friendly.

One other important aspect about developing speech skills with the help of tablet device is that they are far less stigmatizing for young people who rely on them for communication. In fact, if anything, they make them look even ‘cooler’.

“Every time the iPad says a word, it sounds exactly the same, which is important for children with autism, who generally need things to be as consistent as possible,” Kaiser explained.

It has been assumed that that if children with autism had not begun to speak by age 5 or 6, they were unlikely to acquire spoken language. The Autism Speaks challenges that assumption.

Results from the Autism Speaks study will be available in Spring 2014; the NIH study will continue through Spring 2017; and more information can be found at Kidtalk.org.


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