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Key iPad Resources: 2. Autism, Complex Needs, Communication Support Needs

by Allan Wilson

on Fri Apr 10, 2020

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iPads and Autism Spectrum Condition / Complex Needs / Communication Support Needs

[This is the second of two blogs aiming to help people navigate their way through the large amounts of information on the CALL web site covering the use of iPad technology to help learners with additional support needs.]

We recognise that children who come into the above categories are all very different individuals with different support needs and interests. Something that works well with one young person will not necessarily work the same way for another. Some of the information and features of the iPad mentioned in the previous blog on Dyslexia can also be useful for children in these groups, but here are links and notes on additional resources that we hope will be useful.

General Introduction

The Information section of the main CALL Scotland site has information and advice about different additional support needs.

  • Autism Spectrum Conditions - this page has information on What is Autism Spectrum Condition? and How Technology Can Help. The Technology section has lots of detailed information and advice on the use of computers, communication aids and iPads to help with different aspects of the condition. There isn't a section with a specific focus on the iPad, but there are references to how iPads can help with various aspects of the condition, e.g. hypersensitivity and the use of social stories.
  • Communication Support Needs -  there are three main sections on this page, though none looks at the use of iPads in any depth. What is Communication Support Needs? looks briefly at the main conditions that can lead to a communication difficulty and the impact it can have on a person's life; What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)? takes a brief look at techniques and technologies that can replace spoken communication; Scottish AAC Legislation looks at legislation introduced in 2016 to ensure that people with communication difficulties have access to appropriate equipment and support.
  • Severe and Complex Support Needs - considers what we mean by severe and complex needs and looks at different ways in which assistive technology can help, with short case studies illustrating how different pupils have been helped by the use of technology.
  • Communication Aids - this article provides an introduction to the use of dedicated communication aids and communication devices based on the use of a laptop computer, or an iPad with the use of appropriate communication software or apps, with links to further information on other web sites, e.g. the Communication Matters web site.

Using Built-in Features

  • Text to Speech - The iPad's built-in text-to-speech features can be useful for many learners with additional support needs, but they require a high level of manual dexterity to be able to select text and read it back. We have information about using Speak Selection, Speak Screen and other features to read text back from the screen in our Information section, under Text-to-Speech - iPad.
  • Setting Up Guided Access posterGuided Access - You may want a child or young person to focus on a particular activity on an iPad, but it can be very easy for them to become bored and look for something they find more interesting on the iPad, such as a game, or a YouTube video. Guided Access keeps the iPad locked in a single app, for a particular time,or until a password is entered. We have a poster, Setting up Guided Access on an iPad (iOS 12), which explains how to do this. (The current iOS 13 is slightly different as you turn on Guided Access via Settings - Accessibility - Guided Access.
  • Alternative Access - The iPad (and other tablets) rely heavily on the user being able to touch items on the screen, move them about, perform double-taps, use pinch gestures, etc. In short there is a need for good fine motor skills in order to make best use of an iPad. Over the years, alternative access methods have been developed, to allow the use of physical keyboards, mice, switches, and even eye gaze with an iPad, but these are often cumbersome so there would need to be a very good reason to use an iPad, rather than a Windows PC or dedicated communication device with somebody who has very limited fine motor skills. Our poster, Using the iPad to Support Learners with Physical Difficulties, provides a summary of the built-in features to support alternative access as they stood in 2016. Our free 18-page guide to What's New in iOS 11? highlighted some of the new features introduced in 2017. It was accompanied by a webinar, What's New in iOS 11 to Support Learners with ASN? There has been further progress in access, particularly with the release of iPadOS 13 in 2019, which we will come on to later.

Getting and Using Apps

Lots of apps are available to support learners with autism spectrum conditions, severe and complex needs or communication difficulties. Apps can be downloaded from the App Store, generally accessed by tapping on the App Store icon on the Home screen of the iPad. Some apps are free, but you will have to pay for most, though they are not usually expensive.

  • iPad apps for Learners with Complex Additional Support Needs posterOur iPad Apps for Learners with Complex Additional Support Needs poster provides links to useful iPad apps for learners with complex learning difficulties, many of which are also useful for some learners with autism spectrum conditions. The 'Wheel of apps' is not comprehensive, but attempts to identify relevant, useful apps and to categorise them into the areas where we feel an iPad can be a useful tool for learning and teaching.
  • iPad Apps for Complex Communication Support Needs provides a categorised guide to some of the iPad apps that may be able to meet the needs of somebody who might otherwise use a dedicated communication aid. Some of the apps provide full-featured expressive communication systems, arguably equivalent to high end communication aids, while others are are much simpler, like the basic communication aids that can store a very limited number of messages. Some apps use text, while others use symbols: some apps have their own switch access options, others can use the built-in iOS switch access, while others rely on the user being able to touch the display. The Wheel will not tell you the 'best' app for a learner, but it will help you to focus on a small number of apps in any category before making a choice.
  • Book Creator posterUsing Book Creator focuses on different ways in which this flexible, intuitive and easy to learn app can be used by teachers and learners to produce a wide range of resources and activities, combining text, images, sound and video.

We have produced a number of webinars over the past few years, providing an overview of a particular category of app, or taking a deeper look at an individual app. These include:

We have two further webinars in this area scheduled for 2020:

There are also a couple of very relevant blogs on our web site:

Other Resources from CALL Scotland (and Others)

  • Symbols for All is a CALL Scotland web site dedicated to the provision of symbolised resources in two main categories: Curricular Resources in PDF format (which can be used on an iPad) and Bookbug Resources, primarily in PDF format, but with some in formats for the Sounding Board, Clicker Connect and Clicker Sentences apps for the iPad.
  • Front cover of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 Accessibility: Switch Access - The Missing GuideiOS 13 / iPadOS 13 Accessibility: Switch Access - The Missing Guide is a comprehensive free guide to switch access, available from AbleNet. (The examples in the guide use AbleNet's Blue2 and Hook+ interfaces, which are both excellent, but other interfaces are available.) We have information on switch access in CALL resources, but they have not been kept fully up to date, as this guide is so good. The iPad has a huge range of switch access settings, allowing it to be set up to perform almost any task, but it can be very complicated - it is not something that can be done with a five minute phone call. If you need to set up switch access for a learner - get this guide and take time to work through the various options that the learner may need before trying to set it up.
  • Cover of A Quick Guide to the New Assistive Features for: iPadOS and iOS 13A Quick Guide to the New Assistive Features for: iPadOS & iOS13 is a very useful guide to new accessibility features in the iPad and iPhone that allow the devices to be controlled with a mouse, trackball, or similar device. You can use a wireless bluetooth device, or a wired, USB device. If you want to connect a wired mouse, trackball, etc. to an iPad, you will need to get a Lightning to USB3 Camera Adapter. We would generally recommend getting the Apple adapter, which is more expensive than others, but is more reliable.




Tags: information, autism spectrum conditions, severe and complex needs, communication

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