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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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iPads May Help Speaking Skills in Kids With Autism

Combining use of device with therapy sessions helped minimally verbal children talk, interact

continued...

An early response was defined as an improvement of 25 percent or more in half of the 14 measures, such as the number of spoken words and the use of new words, Kasari said.

If a child was not progressing at the three-month mark, the researchers added the tablet. But adding it later was not as effective as using it from the start, Kasari's team found. The researchers followed the children for three years.

"The idea of using an iPad is a novel approach," said Dr. Ruth Milanaik, an attending physician at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. Milanaik treats children with autism and reviewed the study's findings.

"The idea of technology being used to help children who really need different approaches is so important," she said. It's crucial, however, she agreed, to understand that the iPad "was simply a tool" and that it was an adjunct to the traditional interventions that aimed to improve communication and other developmental advances.

While a 25 percent improvement -- the measure used to define response -- may not seem like much to some, Milanaik said that "every small step, for the parents of an autistic child, is monumental."

Kasari and her team are continuing to study the iPad, planning to enroll about 200 children in four cities during a planned five-year study.

If the research continues to bear out, the hope would be to use the iPads in school programs and to train parents in its use at home, both experts agreed.

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