iPad helping kids with autism

Touch screen phones and downloaded apps are all the rage these days. One Tri-state classroom is using some of this trendy technology to make a difference in the lives of students.

A month ago six year-old Carston Kilburn couldn't verbally tell you his colors or even what he wanted for a snack.

He depended on body language and other people to speak for him. But now for the first time he has his own voice, thanks to an I-Pad.

A month ago Teacher Lori Thompson tried introducing the gadgets to her West Central Illinois Special Education Co-op class in the West Prairie school district last month. And she was surprised at what she saw.

"They just lit up. It was something they could do on their own. You could see the wheels turning."

After that Thompson downloaded more and more apps to the device. Now kids like Carston are flourishing.

Thompson said, "He's more involved because he was actively participating where before he had to sit back and let things happen around him."

11 year-old Ray Hart has autism and found it hard to stay focused on his studies. Now he carefully traces his letters and loves doing his math problems on the iPad.

Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Heerboth says the possibilities for these students are endless.

Dr. Heerboth said, "These are real people locked up inside a body that doesn't work like our does. But when you give them the chance, they have the capability to bring some of what's in here out and absorb."

Perhaps the best part about the iPad for children with these learning disorders is its learning curve.

Before kids used communication devices that weigh between eight and ten pounds. Now the iPad weighs one pound and can be used with many different applications.

So why does this work when other things don't? Teachers say the compact design of the iPad and the interactive music and encouragement keeps these kids' attention and keeps them learning.

Right now there aren't too many other schools using the I-Pads for students with autism and communication disorders. That means teachers at West Prairie's South Elementary school are ahead of the pack.

The goal is, if the iPads work with the students using them now, they'll try to get some for every child in the class.

They're economical too.

An iPad is around $500, while a communication device can cost $8 thousand.