Kids with ASD use iPad app to talk and play

Kids with ASD use iPad app to talk and play

Karen Henry


LSI scientist Kathy Bourque has approached the social communication problems of children with autism from several directions. She developed and tested both peer training and teaching strategies to increase social communication between children with autism and their classmates.

In previous studies, she succeeded in training typically developing children how to respond to communication partners and in another project, how to use the same communication system as their classmates with autism.

Now, she’s bringing these together with the help of a picture communication–voice output app on iPad in a $1.2 million grant funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

So Much 2 Say© is being used by preschool children with – and without ASD - as a speech-generating device. The device is programmed to meet the individual needs of each child with autism. The iPad app will allow children to quickly tap images that the app verbalizes to express their wants and needs, greet others and make comments typical of preschool communication.

The Kansas City Star and the Lawrence Journal-World visited classrooms in Kansas City and Lawrence and witnessed how the intervention works.

“Many young children with autism have complex communication needs but do not develop functional speech,” said Thiemann-Bourque. “AAC— alternative and augmentative communication—can allow them to communicate independently, but most studies that report success involve communicating with adults, not with peers.”

The KU study involves 48 preschool children with autism who are nonverbal or minimally verbal, 48 early education school staff and 144 peers without disabilities (each child with autism will have three peer partners) from the greater Kansas City area and Lawrence, Kan. school districts.