How do people really use mobile technology for students with autism?

I talked with a teacher recently about technology for students with autism.

She strongly declared, “My students will never have an iPad or cell phone.”


Her attitude wasn’t based on skill level of her students.  They would certainly be capable of managing the technology.  I suspect she was thinking more about the economics of the tech tools.

It all depends
Does technology cost a lot?  It all depends.  If you think of a tablet or a phone as a toy, then yes, it’s an expensive toy.  But if you think of it as a “life support,” tool, then your perception of its’ cost (or its’ value) changes.

Here’s one opinion
By now, a large percentage of our population has some level of access to smart technology. Here’s how Joanna Garcia described her experience.

I’m not a techie, but I don’t know how I lived without an iPad.
Mine comes with me everywhere.
As greatest inventions go,
it’s up there with electricity and cars.
Joanna Garcia 

Is that how you feel about your devices? How many do you have? How integrated have they become into your daily life? And here’s the most important question . . .

What do you use your technology for?
The statistics may change depending on how the categories are labeled. But the trends are clear. The majority of mobile usage (meaning smart phones and tablets compared to desk top or laptop computers) for the general population of users is aimed toward social communication and personal entertainment. Check out these survey results showing how the general population really uses their mobile technology.

How People Really Use Mobile1

• 1%       Hobbies & Interests
• 4%      News & Information
• 7%      Planning for upcoming activities
• 11%     Accomplishing (Finances, health, productivity)
• 12%    Shopping
• 19%    Socializing (Email, interacting with other people)
• 46%    “Me” time (Games, entertainment, music)

How do those statistics match your own personal experience?  Do you spend most of your “screen time” with games and music? What about your students?

And one more thing
Keep in mind that now that phones have changed and become so easy to use apps, many people do it all on their phones rather than an iPad.

What apps do people really use?
App developers have come up with more than a million ideas for apps for people (the general population) to use on their mobile devices. Research shows that last year the average smartphone user downloaded 26 apps but the average person continued using only about six of them. The remaining 20 were just left on the device to clutter the screen or were deleted.2

Just thinking it through
Games, entertainment and music are not bad things. They actually stimulate the whole social world for us and for our students. But it does help to have a realistic goal for those tech tools. How you use your technology for yourself will impact how you will guide your child or your students toward activities on the devices.

The “miracle cure”
Ipads have been declared a “modern day miracle” for both children and adults with autism. There are lots of positive outcomes reported by families and teachers. I also hear about the frustrations and disappointments.  Some people’s expectations are met and others are not. Perhaps part of the challenge is that some people are not quite sure what they want to happen with the tech tools.

When the holidays are here
So, I’m sure there will be lots of students unwrapping technology gifts when the holidays come. My email will get full of questions like, “What apps should we get?”

When people ask me that question, I ask a couple of questions back.  First, “What is the student’s age and skill level?” Second, “What do you want to do or accomplish with the device?” Two important questions to aim you in the right direction.

So I did a survey
I was getting so many questions about apps that I decided to do a survey. I ended up receiving thousands of responses from parents, teachers and Speech Pathologists who supported individuals of all ages on the autism spectrum.

These participants ended up recommending thousands of apps that their students liked and used for many purposes. That’s a lot of apps!

I spent a lot of time organizing the information. As expected, there were a few special ones that “rose to the top.”  I created lists of the most popular apps and also sorted them somewhat by age appropriateness. That’s an important factor.

See the results

The results are in this Kindle book,

Top 60 Recommended Apps for Autism. In addition to those top apps, there are links to additional lists of approximately 300 or more apps to look at. This can save you a lot of time so you don’t have to sort through a million apps to find some that are appropriate for your students.

Keep in mind that there are many more apps added to the App Store each day so you may know some that are not on my list. Great!  Just send them to me so I can add them.


P.S. I want to make sure that you know that you don’t need to have a Kindle device to read the Kindle book.  You can download a FREE Kindle App from the App Store onto any device, computer, phone, iPad etc.,  and then you can read your Kindle books.

P.P.S. Many apps on the list help promote life independence for teens and adults. But you can start to learn how to use them even younger.



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