Should students who use iPads for communication purposes be allowed to use the iPad in the classroom for academic purposes? This question was raised recently by Maria Landon in the ASHA Leader (June 2018 issue):
Then the classroom teacher starts talking about a great new current-events application she just heard about. The occupational therapist wants to install a handwriting app. The student’s one-on-one aide thinks a visual timer would be very helpful during transitional times. So, now what?
Although this question might come across as a no-brainer to some, it does open up the proverbial can of worms when thinking about the role of technology in promoting communication in students with little or no speech.
Research studies recently emphasized the negative role of overuse of electronic media on the well-being of young children. For example, in a recent study in Germany, the parents of 527 German two- to six-year-old children provided information on their use of electronic media and their behavioral difficulties at two time points, with approximately 12 months between baseline and follow-up.
The findings showed that greater usage of computer/internet at baseline predicted more emotional and behavioral problems at follow-up. Further, baseline usage of mobile phones was associated with more behavioral problems and hyperactivity or inattention at follow-up. Children who had difficulties with peer relationships at baseline also were more likely to use computer/internet and mobile phones at follow-up. Preschoolers’ use of electronic media, especially newer media such as computer/internet and mobile phones, was also related to behavioral difficulties over time.
One must wonder what impact diversification of the use of the iPad will have on the interactions of a young, nonspeaking student. Not only would the device serve different functions, but these different functions could de-emphasize the use of the device for the purpose of communication. In a scenario where the child has other communication options (e.g., when the child has some speech), this might not matter that much. However, in a situation where the student has to rely on the device for interaction, using the device for multiple purposes could not only slow down communication, but also de-emphasize the importance of the process of communication for the young student.
If we look at the findings of the study mentioned above, one has to wonder if multiple uses of an iPad could not also contribute to a further decrease of already impoverished peer interactions, as the additional uses of the device could potentially divert attention away from communication.
What do you think?