iPads and Autism. Why they work.

I believe iPads and their use in education have incredible implications for learning and learning outcomes. This is especially so with students who are on the Autism Spectrum. I trialed the use of iPads across the main curriculum areas in my classroom with students who have Autism and there were significant improvements across the board for all students’ learning. Not only that, there were significant improvements socially; communication skills improved; and behavior problems diminished.







I personally believe this technology can revolutionize the education of children with disabilities and especially Autism. The iPad can not only bridge the learning gap, but can also bridge many of the social and communication gaps. But, and this is a big ‘but’! This device MUST be used correctly and effectively to have the impact that I am promising.


The iPad can be the perfect vehicle that facilitates a student centered approach that focuses on a child’s individual talents, learning style and interests. Using this technology, students become designers of their own curriculum & teachers become facilitators & mentors. I saw my students grow with confidence daily in areas where they previously struggled and I then noticed that they were prepared to take greater risks with their learning.


The best gift we can gift any student is to give them the ability to know how to learn! Building this sense of independence, grows and evolves children to become the best they can be and reach their potential. This is especially true for students who are on the Autism Spectrum. We have to know how they learn and what interests and motivates them to learn. We then have to provide them with a space to learn with minimal anxiety and stress. ONLY when students achieve success, will they feel more confident and when they feel more confident, they will experience more success. It is a cyclical process!


I now work as a consultant, teacher trainer and course writer with Teacher Training Australia and Digital Learning Tree in the USA. During my travels across Australia and the USA, I speak at many seminars, professional training sessions and conferences. I’ve met many enthusiastic and motivated educators but they are also exasperated and confused. They are told the iPad can make a difference with their students but they don’t know where to start.




Teachers tell me that they're handed a device and told to use it with virtually NO training. They are given a list of apps, but not instructed how to use the apps, let alone how to use them in an educational context. Their school administration or ‘techs’ make the device virtually impossible to use. Or they have iPads in their classroom but are only using the device as a ‘time filler’ or to ‘reward’ a student. I often feel ‘their’ despair, but I don’t want teachers to be dissuaded.


However, I have to be clear, if you are not using the iPad properly then you are missing out on the device’s real potential. It is vital that you learn how to use the iPad so that you can integrate them into your lessons, but even more importantly it is vital that you learn how to use the iPad so that your students have a better chance educationally.


There are hundreds of thousands of apps on market and as an educator wading through the app market is daunting, let alone then working out how to use them, then figuring out how to use them in an educational context. I've researched apps since the first iPad came on the market and in hindsight, I began with too many apps. I believe it is preferable for teachers to start with a short list of about ten apps; learn how to use them one at a time and then scaffold your own knowledge from there. When you’re confident using this device, your students will be too.


I’m passionate about making a difference for students who are on the Autism Spectrum and I’m passionate about education, but I’m inspired by technology and how these devices can build the bridge of knowledge for these kids. Therefore, this blog will focus upon one app that can be used with students on the Spectrum. We are going to look at how they work and how you can use the app in your day to day lessons. There’ll be lots of practical examples, videos, screenshots and pictures.


I’ll also offer some guidelines for some of those bumps that you may experience along the way, such as ‘app’ stimming, getting your student to stay on the app you want them to work with, providing visual and time schedules for app use etc. If you learn how to use at least one app well, then you’ll be well on your way to becoming a digital teacher and more importantly, your students will hugely benefit from your knowledge.


Karina D. Barley


Karina is an Australian teacher with over 20 years’ experience in both mainstream and special education. Her interest in Autism and how to provide better educational opportunities for her students led her to iPads.  Karina conducts professional development for teachers in Australia, works as an Autism Consultant and conducts a number of online courses on iPads in Education, Autism Awareness, and 21st Century Education.  She can be contacted through her website: www.projectautismaustralia.com




Subscribe to Our newsletter