EMMA Caughey loves her iPad, but it’s so much more than an entertainment tool for the Ballarat Specialist School pupil, who has been diagnosed with autsim.
For the past three months Emma, 5, has been working with Ballarat Pinarc Disability Support to learn how to use an iPad app to expand her vocabulary, social and fine motor skills.
Speech pathologist Brooke Dawson said the iPad was revolutionising the way speech pathology could be delivered.
“Even broader than that, it’s early intervention in general,” Ms Dawson said.
“The app, itself, can be used as a full communication device, in place of a very expensive communication device.
“It’s also constantly changing and keeping up with the times.”
She said since the iPad’s release, use of the technology had grown increasingly popular and dedicated apps had been developed for communication purposes.
She said children had taken to the iPad particularly well.
Pinarc chief executive officer Marianne Hubbard said adults with autism were also turning to the iPad in place of a traditional alphabet board for communication.
“An adult is saying I don’t want to be using that because it stands me apart – I want to be using an iPad,” she said.
“I think a really exciting thing is the independence they can have – being able to go to the doctor or the shops alone – this program can do that for them in that it vocalises what they want.
“I think the freedom that will bring people is just phenomenal, which brings us closer to inclusion for people with disability in our community, which is what our organisation is trying to achieve.”
Emma’s mother Jane Caughey said her daughter had taken to the device “like a duck to water”.
She said Emma’s vocabulary had increased so much it was “incredible”.
It had also been good for Emma’s relationship with her two sisters, by encouraging her to share.
“She used to have a folder we would put pictures in trying to get her to communicate,” Ms Caughey said. “To go from that hard copy, which took so long to put together, to this one app is just fantastic.”
Pinarc occupational therapist Stephanie Van Velzen said the new technology helped families do therapy at home.
“People can use these skills in a more fun way,” she said.