60 Minutes did a program on using iPads as tools to help autistic children (and adults) communicate. Of particular interest to people in my part of the world is a segment that focuses on Beverley School in Toronto. The school has a large autistic student population, some with severe forms of autism. They have recently introduced iPads into the curriculum as a means of helping autistic children reach out and learn to communicate.
And now, my take . . . while I appreciate the excitement over the possibilities the iPad presents, it's not about the iPad as some of the people on the program would have you believe. In many autistic people, there's a disconnect between what goes on in the brain and what happens in the outside world. The more barriers you place to interaction, the more apparent that disconnect tends to be.
For instance, working at a classic personal computer which includes a keyboard and mouse can be extremely difficult and unbelievably frustrating. The connections that must be navigated include brain to hand, hand to mouse, keyboard and mouse combinations, and the resulting display on the screen. How does my desire to make something happen translate into pressing some key while moving the mouse to a specified location on screen, to then provide the feedback necessary to complete some action or process?
Tablets, on the other hand, represent one to one results. I touch here and something happens. It doesn't require multiple steps or an understanding of multiple layers of action and reaction. Call it instant gratification if you will, but what really helps is the removal of barriers to countless opportunities for interacting with the world. With applications. With information. With other people.
To that end, it's not about the iPad. It's about tablet technology in general, including countless varieties of Android devices.