My Autism Classroom using iPads – A Blog I wrote in 2011

This is a blog I wrote back in 2011 (03/29/2011 to be exact!) on trialing iPads with my special needs class when the iPad was first released

So, let me tell you a story. 
Last year I envisioned a classroom where I could make a difference to my students.  My instincts told me that technology could make a difference, but I found PC’s or laptops to be difficult because of they way they were set up … Mostly they face a wall, or with laptops, students are hidden behind them, either way they are somewhat isolated.  I then heard about the new iPad, not yet released….. And before I even tried one, I knew it could be the answer.  I had used an iPhone and an iTouch, so I had some feel for how a the touch screen might work. 

I kept saying out loud, “I want ten iPads”.
First a parent purchased one and the difference to my student was remarkable.  He went from a child who could barely sit for five minutes to being engaged in writing, reading and spelling for more than forty minutes.  The parents were so enthusiastic and saw remarkable differences at home.  The school began to see the differences as well and the Principal started to talk about what the future might hold if the school were to introduce iPads into the school.  

From that discussion, they purchased ten for my classroom and I was given permission to trial using iPads within the classroom in all curriculum areas.  From the very first day, my students were incredibly excited.
We do reading, writing, spelling and creating; we also do counting, math etc. And what was extraordinary was, within the first week kids who had reputations as kids who roamed the classroom, refused to work,  and greatly struggled with handwriting, were sitting at their tables completely engrossed in the various apps and learning at the same time. 

By week three, other teachers started asking about how effective the iPads were and the other students were asking why their grades didn’t have them too.  Astoundingly the school made a decision to buy an iPad for each student. So my dream of ten went to 60 in three weeks. 
Ok, so it is just a piece of technology, but my passion emerged from my belief that all children can learn and achieve success.  I’ve taught in many many special schools and I’ve observed teachers still trying to teach children who have fine motor issues to write in Year 7, 8, 9… Not their fault, it is what they are required to do.
But why do we insist on focusing on what these kids can’t do?  We must give them success because when we do, they can learn and when they do learn, they feel great about themselves and the cycle continues. In a nutshell, let’s focus on what these children can achieve.

The beauty of the iPad for children with autism is that the children can interact with the machinery in a very tactile way; the graphics are engaging and extremely appealing; it responds to many of the senses; and as the teacher I can sit along side the student, or in front of them and there is a not a big screen in the way. The other brilliant thing about this technology is that the students become directors of their own learning. 
Parents, educators please consider this technology for your child and allow your child to learn by focusing on their talents and what they can do. 

– Karina Barley