The Apple iPad(TM) as an Innovative Employment Support for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities

By Hill, Doris Adams; Belcher, Leigh et al. | Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

The Apple iPad(TM) as an Innovative Employment Support for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities


Hill, Doris Adams, Belcher, Leigh, Brigman, Holly E., Renner, Scott, Stephens, Brooke, Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling


Abstract -

Recent studies on the use of iPad(TM), iPhone(TM), and iPod(TM) touch as assistive technology have been largely limited to young students with disabilities. The purpose of this project was to investigate the use of the iPad(TM) as an innovative employment support tool to increase the independence and success of young adults enrolled in a program that provides employment support through comprehensive services of life-coaching, job coaching, and therapy as these individuals transition into their adult roles. Case studies of three young adults with developmental disabilities that include autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and Tourette's syndrome are provided. The case studies exemplify the development, implementation, and use of the iPad(TM) to support not only independence in daily living, but to enhance the interpersonal skills needed to contribute to a positive work experience and successful outcomes.

Keywords: autism, adults, technology, medication management, schedules, anxiety, life coaching

Autism and Asperger's syndrome (AS) are currently classified as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) under the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) umbrella in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In the proposed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- V, scheduled for publication in 2013, ASD will be classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder and the diagnosis of Asperger's disorder will no longer exist (American Psychiatric Association, 2011). Regardless of the DSM categorization, autism will continue to impact communication, social interaction, and behavior, requiring varying levels of support, depending upon severity. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control (2012), the incidence of ASD is 1 in 88 children nationwide. No biological markers have been associated with autism, and therefore no "cure." A mixture of behavioral and other therapies, life coaching, educational strategies, environmental modifications, assistive technologies, and medication (when needed) can mitigate the symptoms of ASD (National Autism Center, 2009a; Tsai, 2007).

Behavioral variability in individuals with ASD can interfere with diagnosis, especially if the diagnosing clinician lacks experience with the disorder (Tsai, 2007). Most of the literature regarding interventions and behavior management for ASD has focused on children who will soon make the transition to young adulthood. Effective interventions that increase socially appropriate behavior, foster independence, lead to employment, and allow the possibility of living life in the community of choice may be of particular value to these individuals and their families (Broadstock, Doughty, & Eggleston, 2007; Taylor & Seltzer, 2011).

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) has successfully been used alone or in conjunction with other interventions to change behavior or foster communication. AT is defined as "any item or piece of equipment or product system acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized, and used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capability for an individual with disabilities" (Beard, Carpenter, & Johnson, 2007, p. 4). AT has the potential to help individuals with disabilities mitigate barriers that occur in daily life. Personal Data Assistants (PDAs), or palmtop computers (i.e., small computers that fit into the palm of your hand) provide a particularly promising platform to address some of the barriers for people with cognitive impairments. These devices are portable, relatively affordable, customizable, capable of handling large amounts of data storage, and have features such as touch screens and multimedia input and output capabilities. Several software applications for PDAs and palmtop computers have been developed for use to promote increased independence by providing structure and cues, assisting with schedule and time maintenance, task completion, and decision making (Myles, Ferguson, & Hagiwara, 2007; Stock, Davies, Davies, & Wehmeyer, 2006). …

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