Written by Rebecca Sharrock

Modern technology is great, yet there won’t be a gadget around for quite some time that is as versatile as an iPad (or their Android counterparts). These new computers are an absolute godsend for people with autism, and there are of course many reasons as to why this is the case.

Firstly autistic people generally prefer alone time more than socialising in a conventional way. It is of course necessary for us to practice our communication skills, as social skills and manners are a very important part of society. So moderation is needed when it comes to screen time. But while we’re on our devices we’re given an opportunity to practice  those skills.

If we’re old enough (and use it with caution) social media is a great tool. Talking with people by typing on our trusted device is so much easier for us than being face to face. This is because we’re given more time to process information. We also feel less pressured or put on the spot when we’re not required to make eye contact with someone. Once we gain practice by communicating via a computer it becomes much easier for us to communicate with our peers verbally.

Also, there is much for us to learn from apps we can download (and the vast majority of what we need is free of charge). Possibilities seem endless whenever we search for a new game or program in the App Store. This is why it’s best for us to get as large a hard drive as we possibly can. I myself always purchase my iPads by a two year contact at the phone store, where I’m given the iPad in advance and have two years to pay it off. This way I can always get the best iPad available.

Games like Minecraft are a popular choice of app due to the fact that people with autism tend to enjoy constructing things by taking the small details into account. We can of course build things tangibly with toys like Lego, which most of us (including myself) enjoy to do. Yet it is usually handy for us to have constructed play sets stored digitally, just to save house space (as we usually like to build a lot of different play sets). There are also many free apps where we can do jigsaw puzzles, anywhere from about four pieces to a thousand pieces. Jigsaw puzzles are another common interest amongst us.

These smart devices don’t just work as traditional computers either. They can also be used in a variety of other ways such as a map, magazine, book, camera, television, movie and music player, notepad and more. It is true that smartphones can be used in a similar way. Yet the  smaller size of the screens are always a limitation.

Ever since I got my first iPad four years ago, I’ve never been able to go anyway without one. All of the things I have been using it for have helped me enormously. Firstly I never get bored now. Yet perhaps most importantly I’ve built up social skills, confidence and much of the basic skills that I missed during my school years. It’s amazing what such a device can do.

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