iPad apps open new world for special-needs children

For some, the iPad may be a pricey toy. For others, it's a relatively low-cost means of treatment for special-needs children.

According to GigaOM, "The iPad is a recognized tool of therapy for children with autism and other medical issues that affects their ability to communicate with those closest to them. The easy operation of the iPad has resonated with these children, as professionals involved in the treatment of the kids have discovered."

GigaOM, the popular network of technology blogs, points to a New York Times story about 7-year-old Owen Cain, who has been on a respirator and has difficulty moving his limbs due to a motor-neuron disease he's had since he was a baby. Owen can't operate a computer mouse, but he can open and use an iPad app that plays music and allows him to create on-screen celestial landscapes. His mother says it's the first communications device that worked for Owen on the first try.

GigaOM also mentions Proloquo2Go, an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app from Dutch firm Assistive Ware that helps children with autism "speak" via graphical icons and typing that converts text and commands to speech. "This opens the door for parents to really converse with their kids for the first time, which is an amazing breakthrough," GigaOM reports. The app also has helped at least one adult with cerebral palsy do things the rest of us take for granted, like ordering a mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks without having to make a series of hand gestures.

Proloquo2Go costs $190, in addition to the $499 and up you'll need for an iPad, but that's downright cheap compared to other types of therapy. "While this seems too expensive, it is important to remember that until the iPad, special assistive gadgets were the only options for those with this need, and those cost thousands of dollars. As the mother of an autistic child told me, you can't put a price on the first time your child tells you she 'likes apple juice better,'" GigaOM writer James Kendrick notes.

For further information:
- take a look at this GigaOM story
- read this New York Times feature