Specials Needs and the iPad/iPod


“Mrs. Churchill? Can I use your iPad to play Plants vs. Zombies?” Even though it sounds like a serious amount of playtime, this device (and app) has become a huge motivator and instructional device for our students with Autism. A large, visual, and interactive device, the iPad has opened up doors for these students. With applications like Prologue2Go and Grace, communication and scheduling, two tasks very important to students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), become very easy and intuitive. Students can touch pictures and hear words spoken to them; they can record themselves telling stories and saying names; they can work math problems, regulate sensory needs and are motivated to use the device for rewards. The size of the iPad allows the teacher or peers to work side by side with a student. It allows the student and peer to interact socially as well as academically. Teachers can use this device as a one-on-one approach with highly engaging and stimulating activities. The device appeals to students of all ages. Even kids in their early childhood can learn accomplish a variety of tasks, including learning cause and effect in a safe way. The iPad is also perfect for users of all physical abilities. With a light touch and a simple handswipe, users can access many functions. Students are also encouraged to hold their head up and keep their hands and arms in an upright position. Organization also comes easy with the ability to store multiple types of files in one place. Going on a field trip to look for animal tracks is much easier when you have pictures of the tracks to refer to on this mobile device. Handwriting applications and sight word practice provide language arts reinforcement. With a vast array of ebooks and interactive books available, students can be read to independently and interact with text. Best of all, the device is popular among people of all kinds and ages. ASD students will not be singled out because they no longer have to carry a special device that may be unfamiliar to their peers. With the growing abundance of educational apps available, the iPad will continue to develop into a strong tool for teachers. Blair Special Education teachers and school librarians are integrating this technology into our district. The district now has five iPads and plans are to add more. If you have any questions about how you can use iPads with your child, please feel free to contact Sara Churchill, Arbor’s school librarian, or Melissa Miller, SPED teacher at Arbor. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have a game of Plants vs. Zombies to get back to.

See it in action

Jalen had a lot of fun using Talking Carl. He had to think about what questions to ask, he had to talk loudly and clearly for Carl to repeat him. He also has to speak fluently, if he pauses too long, Carl will start speaking before he is done. We have several other apps we want to try with Jalen both on the iPad and the iPod. The adaptive specials class we have in our schedule this year will allow some time to work closely with Jalen on Communication and Language, numbers, words, and more. For more videos and pictures of the device in action, check out the Media Page.

The Quick List

  • Provides a communication aid and assists in communication skills
  • It's a way of walking and working, running an app, when you have to wait in line, on the way to a field trip...during the dead time, you can be productive
  • Promotes independence
  • Stimulates sensory needs
  • It's an all in one device (pics, music, communication all in one place)
  • Provides an interactive incentive (earn rewards)
  • Cross-curricular
  • You have control over what is synced to the ipad, each day could be new....adventure...reward....or if you have multiple, could use one for reading...one for reward...etc. Novelty is always there.


Get a couple of teachers that are tech savvy enough and comfortable enough with what they are doing in their curriculum.
Implement and document and then take it to the board/district, show your data.
Volume Purchase - iTunes is constantly getting comments and critiques and evolving the way they do things to make it easier, but it's definitely not perfect yet.