iPad for Communication

This study seeks to understand how individuals with complex communication needs utilize a series of iPad apps to practice and hone skills associated with typing to communicate. Specifically, our research questions ask:

  • How can the iPad be used to help individuals who type to communicate develop greater communicative independence?
  • What apps and strategies are most useful for developing and practicing communication skills?
  • How can we help people apply the skills they develop in non-communicative apps to open-ended communication?

Through a series of video-recorded practice sessions with a communication trainer and dedicated practice time at home, participants set individual goals related to typing skills such as rhythm, eye gaze, body organization, motor control and accuracy, and selected apps to utilize to work towards these goals. Initial findings indicate the need for participants to be challenged with age-appropriate content when using iPad apps for communication practice, even if those apps are intended to be “games,” the experience of anxiety or others’ expectations even in the context of practice sessions, and the importance of practice in general. Constructing communication as not a taken-for-granted ability, but a skill to be practiced, was important for participants to isolate an otherwise daunting task into targeted skills on which they could improve.