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The iPad: A Game-Changer for Individuals with Autism

This is a post by Jim McClafferty, Founder and President of Brain Parade, a developer of learning solutions for children with autism and other special needs and the creator of See.Touch.Learn., an iPad application and online community, which serves as a visual learning and assessment system that can be shared with others.

When the iPad was introduced in early 2010 it was immediately clear to me that this device was a true game changer. Innovations such as this don't come along too often and when they do they can make an enormous impact in areas that you might not expect. That was the case with the iPad.

Being a gadget guy, I was one of the first to pick up the iPad when Apple released it. As an information technology professional I had evaluated many tablet devices over the years, and found them all lacking. With the iPad it was apparent that Apple had succeeded where many others had failed.

Shortly after receiving the iPad I had a conversation with a friend who shared with me her frustration at how the technology in her daughter's special needs classes was fairly antiquated. Major technological advancements were not making it into her child’s classroom. That's when the light bulb went off in my head and I saw an opportunity for change.

I started Brain Parade in 2010 with the goal of creating a solution that would provide teachers and caregivers in the autism community with an effective tool to teach and communicate. I worked with behavior consultants, speech pathologists, special-education teachers and parents to design See.Touch.Learn. for people with autism. The result was a breakthrough visual learning and assessment tool that uses images for instruction and replaces the bulky flash cards. In just two-and-a-half years since its launch, more than 370,000 people in 104 countries have used See.Touch.Learn. It has been incredibly rewarding to hear the feedback from the parents and professionals using our products and to see first hand the impact we’ve made on people’s lives. 

I’ve often said that it would be great if we were able to put an iPad in the hands of every family that could benefit from one, so when the opportunity to partner with Autism Speaks on an 800 iPad grant program came up, we leapt at the chance.  In 2012 we participated as the lead app sponsor of Autism Speaks’ iPad grant, which resulted in 175 iPads and over $17,000 worth of apps being provided to deserving families.  We stepped it up this year for our largest contribution to date.  We’re providing 800 copies of See.Touch.Learn. Pro valued at $32,000 to the latest iPad grant recipients. 

The iPad, combined with the incredible apps built by Brain Parade, has certainly improved the lives of individuals with autism.  We are happy to play our part in that improvement.  One of the most rewarding days I’ve had since starting Brain Parade was the day that I received this email from a teacher that uses See.Touch.Learn.

“I developed vocabulary activities with See.Touch.Learn. One of the vocabulary words was "moon." A student's grandmother reported, at an IEP meeting, that as they were walking in the parking lot after shopping, he pointed upward and said, "There's the moon." This boy with Autism rarely spontaneously spoke! There was not a dry eye in the room at that moment. “ 

Stories like that are why I love what I do!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.