iPad apps are changing the lives of autistic children

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on December 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Dec 18 at 2:41 PM

Kyle and Tina Carkhuff have plenty to celebrate. Their five year old son Evan was diagnosed with autism. Like many autistic children he cannot talk. But in the last two months he's made astonishing progress.

"He started to play more with his brother. He's more interactive with us," said Tina Carkhuff, Evan's mother.

The couple purchased an iPad, then discovered it had many learning applications that help give Evan a voice.

"We started using the iPad to put pictures of the food on the iPad. And then Evan can tap or scroll and show us exactly what it is that he's looking for," said Tina.

Now Evan has a voice through pictures. His dad, Kyle Carkhuff, said Evan can tap out sentences such as "Evan goes to the car. Evan goes to the playground."

The director of the autism psychology services program at Seattle Children's said the staff is helping parents customize applications for their children.  

"It's really been a match between the kids and the iPad applications. But uniformly the kids love it and the parents love it as well," said Dr. Felice Orlich.

Orlich said kids are not only able to make themselves understood. They're also learning social skills.

"For example they're going into a new group of kids, it would kind of tell them a story or show them in pictures how to say "Hello", how to ask "Let's play together," she said.

Centers that provide therapy for autistic children, like "Spectrum of Hope" in Texas, are now using iTouch and iPad. Parents call it a breakthrough.

"It's a way that I'm going to be able to get to know my child. He's a joker. He likes to kid around. He makes jokes and he loves to laugh. But we've known he's laughing, but we've never been able to hear about what." said Laura Theriot, mother of ten year old Tom who has autism.

The technology won't fix autism, a developmental disorder that affects the brain. But it's a leap forward.

"Now that he has a voice we'll get to know what a great kid he is," Laura Theriot said of her son.

Children with autism aren't the only ones who will benefit. The new applications are also showing promise for kids with other language and communication disorders.

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