iPads are more than just very cool toys for early adopting techies. After a successful fundraising campaign, "18 iPads in 18 Days," Baudhuin Preschool at Nova Southeastern University's Mailman Segal Center for Human Development will soon be among the first schools to implement iPads in classrooms. The devices are developing a reputation among parents and educators of autistic children as a mobile communication tool worth its weight in PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) cards and so much more.
Cards with pictures are a common communication aid for autistic children to express feelings, wants, and needs, and iPad apps like Proloquo2go (which Baudhuin Preschool will use) lasso thousands of these cards into a colorful user-friendly program. Recognizing that this could be an amazing tool for their students, Mailman Segal administrators launched a fundraising campaign to buy 18 iPads, one for each Baudhuin Preschool classroom. "18 iPads in 18 Days," the fundraising plan, turned into "18 iPads in 18 Hours," according to the program's dean, Roni Leiderman, PhD, who was overwhelmed by people's generosity.
With this technology, Leiderman says, it will be easier to "understand that the young child wants a glass of water or wants to say 'I love you, Mommy' or has a pebble in his shoe." Without sufficient means of communication, she says, "You see increased frustration, worsening social communication, and worse behavior."
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Proloquo2go, the iPad communication app, holds 8,000 images. "Could you imagine walking around with 8,000 PECS cards?" Leiderman says. She also clarified that the iPad cannot replace other "communicative devices and communicative strategies," saying, "Children learn through the portal of relationships." Leiderman says the school will be collecting data to track children's progress with the iPad, but she says, "I would take a leap of faith and say that I expect... really excellent results." The school is purchasing the devices this week; then, after a training period for staff and parents, the school will begin using the 18 iPads in classrooms. As fundraising continues, Leiderman hopes the school can also implement iPads in other programs.