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Tzvi Schectman
BY Tzvi Schectman

6 steps to get the iPad into your child’s special education classroom

This post is part Eight of the Special Needs iPad & App Series.

Almost from the day the iPad was launched there was an immediate buzz about the special needs apps that were available in the iPad app store. Apple quickly realized that the iPad was perfectly suited to enhancing the lives of individuals with special needs and created a special education section of the app store. Websites and blogs sprung up dedicated to reviewing apps for Assistive CommunicationSocial Skills, Life SkillsScheduling and more.

The word is out that the iPad is an effective device to help your child communicate. Apparently most school districts haven’t heard the news yet.  You may have an iPad at home to help your child communicate, but what happens when he goes to school?  Is your child stuck with an unwieldy device that is hard to use? Do you want your school to provide an iPad for your child but don’t know where to start and who to speak to?

In this post we give you 6 steps to convince your school to provide an iPad for your child (make sure to watch t he videos below.

1.Make sure your child qualifies

There is no point in making a stink if your child won’t qualify for an AAC Communication Device.  If your child does not qualify for an AAC Device there is no way a school will provide an iPad.

The iPad is much more than an assistive communication device and is a great tool for children that are verbal as well (For example Life Skills & Social skills apps for kids with Asperger’s etc). Unfortunately most school districts will only contemplate  an iPad for communication purposes and nothing more.

2. Make sure your child can use the iPad

The iPad may not be suitable for Children who have difficulty with fine motor skills. You must make sure your child can hold his or her hand steady long enough to tap and scroll the screen.  On a cognitive level your child also must be able to differentiate between different pictures.

3. Know why your school doesn’t like iPads

Before you make the case for an iPad find out why your school isn’t into it. Knowing why your school won’t provide one will help you prepare your case for getting one. Some of the more common reasons are:


  • The iPad includes Non- Educational Elements
    Schools want to make sure that they are providing  materials that will be used to its fullest potential. Knowing that the iPad could be used for movies and games makes them cringe.
  • Stimming
    A claim is made that kids start stimming while using the iPad. Instead of going from one step to the next the child will start repetitively tapping the same picture or sound.
  • Change
    It takes bureaucracies a long time to make changes and schools can be no different.  Instead of being innovative and forward thinking you may have a school that wants to keep the status quo and not make changes to what is already in place

4. Explain why you need an iPad over other AAC Devices

Prepare a list of pros for iPad and cons for the regular communication devices  Some ideas to inlcude:

Why the standard AAC Device does not work for my child
A. It is hard to program
B. It is bulky and heavy
C. Makes my child stick out and look different
D. A battery charge only lasts a few hours

Why an iPad will work for my child
A. The iPad provides the most sophisticated and up to date communication applications
B. Very intuitive display and layout, making it easy for a child with special needs to use (and makes it easier for their parents to program)
C. Extremely light and easy to transport
D. Battery last 10 hours

5. Speak Out

A. Start with your child’s teacher.  Explain to the teacher why you feel your child needs an iPad. Make sure you are not confrontational. Advocate for your child in a calm and respectful manner.

B. If your teacher is unwilling or unable to help take it to the next level ask to speak to the person who coordinates augmentative communication in your district. If that doesn’t help go up the ladder to the Superintendent of Special Education.

C. If you are still finding the going tough ask other parents in similar situations (parents with a child who goes to the same school and needs an AAC device to help communicate) to work together to change the schools mind. The voice of one may be ignored but an outcry from many parents will not be drowned out.

D. Bring in outside advocates who will stand by your side and will help request, cajole and maybe even threaten legal proceedings. A professional advocate knows how to talk the school’s language and can cut through the red tape.

6. Be Informed- Resources to back up your claims

To further prove your point show them that schools all over the country are starting to implement iPads in special education classrooms. Here are some links to articles and videos about schools all around the country using iPads in the Classroom.

Schools find iPads help special needs pupils –Martinsville, Virginia
EDUCATION MATTERS: Schools using iPads to help autistic students – Millford, Connecticut
Interactive iPads help special ed students – Monmouth, Illinois
Using iPads to teach special needs kids – Bowling Green, Ohio
School uses iPads to help teach special needs students – Pima, Arizona
Marin Co. to issue iPads for its special ed students – Marin County, California


The Rest of the Series:

  1. The Special Needs iPad & App Series: Welcome
  2. 7 Assistive communication (AAC) apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
  3. 7 Scheduling and Behavioral Apps to help with transitions and more
  4. 11 Social Skills & Life Skills Apps in iPad App Store
  5. 10 Websites to Find Special Needs Apps for the iPad & iPhone
  6. 7 Special Needs Apps in the Google Android Market
  7. On a tight budget? 7 ways to get an ipad for your child with special needs
  8. 6 steps to get the iPad into your child’s special education classroom
  9. 4 Special Needs iPad/iPhone Apps for the Future

More Special Needs Apps

Looking for more special needs apps? Check out the Special Needs App Review!

With over a thousand apps now available to help individuals with special needs it has become increasingly difficult to find and choose the right special needs app. The Friendship Circle App Review gives you the ability to find the perfect special needs app for your child.

Special Needs App Review

Tzvi Schectman

Written on March 31, 2011 by:

Tzvi Schectman is the Family Coordinator for the Friendship Circle of Michigan and the Editor of the the Friendship Circle Blog. You can connect with Tzvi on LinkedIn and Google+
  • mbaud

    I like the iPad as a communication device, but I still always use feature matching for assessment purposes since there are several features unavailable of the apple products (touch screen sensitivity, etc…) The argument for “it’s hard to program” is not necessarily true.  To program the “better” AAC apps (i.e., P2G or TouchChat) they take some skill and knowledge as well, with the proper training any parent and even the child themselves can program a DynaVox, PRC, Saltillo or other companies devices.

  • This is a fantastic post. Increasingly, iPads are being shown to greatly improve the learning of children with special needs.

  • Jackie Susnik

    AAC is not a “one size fits all” so I am very concerned about your statement:

    “If you are still finding the going tough ask other parents in similar situations (parents with a child who goes to the same school and needs an AAC device to help communicate) to work together to change the schools mind.”

    I totally agree with what is presented by mbaud, and that AAC feature match is essential.  One child receiving  a specific AAC solution in no way indicates that this solution is appropriate for another  child with developmental disabilities.  That is like saying everyone should drive the same make/model of car or wear the same type of jacket, just because we are all people.    it fails to take into consideration that I might be a “chilly” person and want heavier jacket, while another might be “warm blooded” and prefer a lighter or no jacket.  We would not recommend that all parents run out and get the same exact jacket for every child, claiming that will meet their needs.

    When we do a “one size fits all”solution, then parents are upset with schools because the ‘cure” doesn’t fix the problem.   It ends up being a very poor solution to the issues presented by children with complex communication needs.  Also, statements such as “x” is easier to program than “y” are simply unfounded and inaccurate.

  • iCare

    I work exclusively with autistic students and am a huge fan of the highly portable and multipurpose iPod/iPad as a communication device.  Here is my issue with it in the education world and I would love to know how other schools and school districts are handling this….Because the iPod/iPads are not dedicated communication devices, they are not covered by medicaid.  Our school has decided, when deemed appropriate (through the SETT process of assessment) to purchase them and the communication app for students as part of their educational program.  The problem lies with what to do in the home environment.  Some parents purchase a duplicate device for home, others however, want the school’s device to travel back and forth with the student between home and school.  The problem??  They tend to disappear or get associated with the home iTunes account and all manor of non educational apps are downloaded.  Sometimes the devices get broken.  How are other schools districts handling this issue?  With wifi so accessible it is easy for families to download all manner of things on these devices.  How can the devices be secured and safely transported?  Our preference is to keep the devices at school where they can be secure.  But what to do about the home environment????  Thoughts, suggestions, ideas welcome.

  • Taylor

    I love your thoughts on this. I can see both sides as a teacher with students who use both kinds of devices. My student who uses an IPAD, is easily distracted, stims and rarely is willing to use it for the real purpose it is supposed to serve. However, it is much more functional in the community, it us much more user friend than other devices.
    Both arguments are valid.

  • We love the AACSpeechBuddy – for iPad, iPhone, iTouch & Android

    Speech Sets can be shared with your child’s speech therapist and can be loaded on multiple devices.

    With the easy to use web management, parents and teachers can collaborate and work on Speech Sets from any Internet Browser on your computer or mobile device.

    No other AAC app gives you the ability to share your created, customized, personalized
    speech sets with others.

    Not only does the AACSpeechBuddy give you the ability to share your created, customized, personalized speech sets with others, it also gives you the ability to load the speech set that specifically pertains to a certain individual or situation – by simply selecting a speech set or entering a profile id which changes the entire content loaded onto your APP in one easy action!

    A Speech Set consists of selected images with corresponding words/sentences. Essentially custom digital PECS icons with text and audible speech.

    Now including over 2000+ images from the Mulberry Symbols collection by Paxtoncrafts Charitable Trust.

  • if i had a i pad in my school  i would love to give ot to the kids with special needs,it would be something to help them study work and go back to there preveus work

  • Trudy Hargrave

    As an special education teacher, can you provide the names of business partners willing to give free ipads to the classroom?

  • Trudy Hargrave

    As a special education teacher, are there any business partners offering free ipads to inner city schools?

  • I would love for my son to have an Ipad with him when he goes into the 1st grade this August, but I really can’t even imagine that his school would grant him one or be able to help him get one. He’s Deaf and has autism and everything is a HUGE fight between what works together between the two disabilites. I am trying to psyche myself into buying a tablet for him myself, but I can imagine that using it effectively in the classroom will be hard and even more so protecting it and making sure that it comes home and in one piece scares me to bits.

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