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Integration of iPads and Other AAC to Improve Communication for Individuals with Autism

Dr. Ashby’s research team aimed to understand the potential of the iPad and other mobile technologies in supporting communication and inclusion of individuals with autism. What applications are most useful for individuals who do not speak or whose speech is highly limited? How can the iPad help individuals with autism develop greater independence, improve their motor planning, or develop verbal speech? Also, while the iPad has nearly unlimited potential, Dr. Ashby’s research team also wanted to understand how it can be meaningfully integrated in school and community settings along with other communication strategies to increase meaningful access to academic, work, and social experiences. Technology alone is not sufficient; training and ongoing support is necessary to ensure that use of the technology enhances communicative interactions and educational access. Many schools and agencies are purchasing iPads with no plan for meaningful integration and no plan for how this new technology fits into a larger total communication approach.

The goal of this project was to enhance our understanding of the potential for iPads and other mobile AAC devices to support communication. Through this grant, Dr. Ashby’s research team explored, evaluated, and organized applications that are most useful in helping non-speaking individuals with autism develop skills related to typed communication and achieving independent communication. The grant also supported the development of a pilot app, a multifaceted assessment tool hoped to aid in determining candidacy for facilitated communication training, current pointing skills and literacy levels. Finally, this project focused specifically on the use of the iPad for helping individuals with autism develop greater physical independence when typing to communicate.