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iPad: Educational Tools for Special Needs Children

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Special Needs—With the iPad’s easy-to-use design it has become a desired tool for the special needs community. In fact, an article in USA Today this week wrote about how the iPad has become education’s equalizer. If you think about it – there are now about 40,000 educational applications for the iPad that educators and parents have at their fingertips. One of the reasons it has become so popular in the this community is because they can be customized to each child’s needs, are lightweight, especially in comparison to more expensive and bulky devices, and gives the child the feeling they are part of a vast and high-tech community (Source: USA Today. September 11).

The cost of an iPad (between $499 to $829) is much less expensive than most devices used for speech therapy, which can run from $2,500 to $15,000 for a device used for paralyzed patients who use eye movements to communicate via screen. But for many special needs families, the iPad expensive is out of their reach. Medicare does not pay for these iPad devices as they claim they can be used for other non-medical purposes.

One man has made it his mission to put as many iPads, along with donated applications, into as many special needs children across the U.S. I had a chance to speak to Gary James who heads up the Apps for Children with Special Needs (A4cwsn) organization this week. Gary started A4cwsn because he felt strongly that there is a whole community of people with special needs children who need to have a place to meet up and talk about their everyday challenges, cheer each other on, exchange information, and make recommendations for applications that their child benefits from and enjoys.

Gary said that he started the organization in January of 2011 and saw more involvement grow when he created the A4cwsn Facebook Page. Now with a following of over 5,500 people and new A4cwsn groups starting in Australia and Canada, they are seeing a whole group of families who are coming together in a unified and supportive community.

Right now, Gary is working on the 50iPads/50States/50Children Campaign. The idea for this campaign came about due to an overwhelmingly successful App Party he held in June. App Developers were able to offer their apps for a discount and/or free for this App Party. This program was such a success with over 8 million impressions on Facebook that Gary wanted to raise more awareness about this community and needs so he started the 50iPads/50States/50Children campaign. This amazing group is raising money for the campaign with school functions, on-line fundraising, and has even had some major corporations donate some iPads for their campaign. They are almost at their goal of 50 iPads, but would like to get as many as possible to those in need. Gary plans to hand-deliver each iPad to each of the selected children across the country.  He will drive across country to do this in order to gather more awareness of the importance of this dynamic tool and applications being used for children with disabilities.

The iPad and the vast number of educational applications have revolutionized how our children are being taught. Gary said that his own special needs son can move about the iPad like there is no tomorrow, but if he put a piece of paper and pencil in front of him, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Gary mentioned an appropriate quote to describe what we are seeing with the benefits of this technology: “If they can’t learn the way we teach, then we must teach them they way they learn.” So true!  We are living in such a fast and changing technological environment, it is so wonderful to see how this device can be life-changing and empowering for a child and their family.  Read more about this wonderful organization at:

What programs, tools, or devices have helped your kids learn? How do your kids learn using the devices and why do they enjoy using them?


USA Today, Adapting to the iPad, called education’s `equalizer`. By Alesha Williams Boyd. September 11, 2011

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Melissa Northway is a mom, writer and has her Masters in Human Nutrition. Her storybook app Penelope the Purple Pirate has been chosen as a Top 10 Must-Have eBook by lilsugar of and was in the Top 25 iTunes books. Please check out Penelope the Purple Pirate Facebook Page to see how you can enter to win some pirate booty in honor of September 19 Talk Like a Pirate Day!  You can read more about Melissa and Penelope’s TLAP Giveaway at:

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