Smart Woman: Smart Devices Help Treat Autism

Smart Woman: Smart Devices Help Treat Autism

A third of autistic children are still having difficulty speaking at age 5, even after years of early intervention. Now researchers are discovering that smart devices can help those children learn to communicate.
5 year old Lance Almeida could only say about 10 words until he started using an iPad.

"It's helped him exponentially, exponentially," Mee Fung Almeida, Lance's mother, said.

Lance was part of a study at the University of California Los Angeles that looked at about 60 children with autism ages 5 to 8 years old. All 60 children received speech therapy for 6 months, half of those using an iPad.

The children with access to a tablet on average doubled the amount of words in their vocabulary.

"If you entered the study with fewer than 20 words you maybe exited the study in 6 months with 100 words, which is quite significant," Dr. Connie Kasari, UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, said.

Researchers say the earlier in therapy children get their hands on one of these tablets, the better the results.

According to Dr. Kasari, the children benefit because the tablet allows for repeated practice. The device can also help clarify words the child is struggling with and the child may feel less pressure to communicate.

"By the end of therapy, he was able to use enough words and confident enough in his own ability to speak that he started not to use it or rely on it as much," Dr. Kasari said.

Lance's parents say he now uses about 100 words, and even comes back to UCLA to help train new therapists.

"I hope if we can help out one parent that's out there, it's worth it," Almeida said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 1 in 68 children have autism.

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