The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

An “apple” a day keeps autism away

with 3 comments

If only autism were that simple to solve. Probing the mind of Apple owner Steve Jobs may be next to impossible for us non-celebrities, but he certainly found a way to attract a group whose minds are also difficult to comprehend. Several news outlets are carrying a story originally from Houston about the iPad assisting autistic children in communication (the link takes you to CBS4’s version). Specifically, parents who purchase an iPad can store pictures or other visual cues while their child taps or scrolls to point out his/her needs. While not documented for this story, I’m certain the benefits go beyond autistic people who don’t communicate orally. Whatever the benefits, autism experts believe the iPad is the next step in filling gaps autistic people have that other don’t.

This isn’t the first time Apple and autism have tangoed in the news together, as an autism center in the Twin Cities implemented iPods last year. Other stories have focused on the iPhone, which some joke is an iPad nano that makes phone calls. Evidence is mounting to support Apple’s surprising benefits for autistic people, regardless of what device is used.

I did scope the other versions of this story online, as some news stations will employ the technique of video news releases (VNR’s).  A VNR is essentially an advertisement or pitch created by a company that looks like a news story and is presented as such during a newscast, but the subjective nature can be detected easily by watchful eyes. A case could be made that I’m discussing a VNR, since the same story has appeared in three websites and highlights the iPad, Apple’s latest foray in the netbook PC market (yes, Apples are technically PCs). However, the iPad has no rival at this point, and previous articles have focused on the relationship between Apple and autistic people. On top of that, no computer company is specifically targeting the autistic demographic simply because there’s little financial stability in that group, rendering any marketing ploy ineffective. The more likely scenario is  was one station ran the story, other news outlets saw it, and decided to use the story themselves. Borrowing stories, especially from a major network’s local affiliates, is also common in television news.

There’s a common thread among all the Apple devices I mentioned that I believe is the reason their products are gold mines for families affected by autism: they’re all touch-based. Apple released the iPod Touch around the same time as the iPhone, and the iPad is nearly an identical alternate form of its predecessors. The touch-base technology allows anyone to navigate apps, software, images, just about anything, with a lower learning curve compared to standard computers. While assuming that only Apple products can help autistic people would be foolish (I’ve used Windows PCs for all my blog entries on this site), its storage and navigation techniques are intuitive, especially for non-verbals. They still may not speak, but the ability to communicate through alternate forms is increasingly easier.

Apple is known for updating its products annually and introducing new devices quickly, with a captive audience of techies and journalists who will scoop up almost any Apple lead. However, when the next product is released, there’s a good chance more news stories will be published about its unseen advantages for the autism community. One of my technology friends noted its power in uniting communities, and Apple is definitely showing strides for at least one of them.

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Written by TheSportsBrain

September 11, 2010 at 9:01 am

3 Responses

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  1. Yes, SportsBrain, video news releases are common in the health, sports and technology fields.

    Interesting point about “little financial stability”.

    Adelaide Dupont

    September 12, 2010 at 8:29 pm

  2. I mention that because I remember reading about low employment levels when I blogged about autism in the workforce last year. The social tendencies of autistic people can leave them at a disadvantage.

    sportsbrain09

    September 12, 2010 at 10:13 pm

  3. This article is great. I’d like to point out that in my area an i Touch is out of reach for many families raising children on the Spectrum. You referenced the “little financial stability” and this comment could be elaborated upon. That instability is the very thing that may prevent a huge portion of iPAD from being utilized within the Autism Community. Perhaps marketing could be targeted toward groups established with the intent to help those populations. Of course, that means the Federal Government and I’m sure Apple is already on that one! Another important point is the lack of uniform research that proves certain benefits of things like iPAD’s or iTOUCH’s for nonverbal people with Autism. Perhaps if nonverbal children were provided unlimited access to itouch and ipad, by the time they were adults they may not be a group with “little financial stability”.

    Danielle

    November 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm


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