Thatcher Davis has autism and a limited spoken vocabulary. But, with his iPad, he asks for chocolate milk, states that he’s bored in class, and tells his brothers that he wants to play a game.

Thatcher, a student at ABC of NC Child Development Center, is part of a growing trend of children with autism who use a touch screen tablet to communicate and learn.

Lizzy Donovan, senior educational consultant, educates parents and teachers on how to take advantage of Apple technologies to effectively teach children with autism. The free classes are held at the Triad school which provides educational services for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families.

According to Donovan, the iPad is a natural solution to many of the teaching challenges for students with ASDs. The visual nature of the tablets addresses the core deficits of autism by helping students process language and use other communication skills necessary to participate appropriately in social and learning environments.

“Because many children with autism are visual learners and stimulated by technology, Apple has revolutionized our programs by making learning more fun, fast and motivating for both teachers and students,” said Donovan.

Donovan says that teachers like the effectiveness of having all the communication materials on one device and finds that that the iPad “cool factor” is extremely motivating. Students are excited by the combination of exciting graphics, animation and music and find it easy to navigate the applications, allowing for predictability and consistency that humans can’t provide.

“It has changed the way we do everything for Thatcher,” said Amy Davis, Thatcher’s mother. “We don’t have to travel with hundreds of visual materials—it’s all on the iPad. If he can’t think of the words, he can look up the pictures.”

Donovan emphasized that the technology is only as effective as the teachers who use it and the child’s ability to cooperate and receive instruction.

“iPads don’t teach children; we do,” she said.

Donovan said that the majority of verbally challenged students at ABC of NC are now using iPads for their programs, but a few families still can’t afford them. If you are interested in donating an iPad or providing the monetary funds for technology, please visit the ABC of NC website at

*In the photo Thatcher Davis, five years old, asks for his lunch using his iPad during class at ABC of NC.

Sponsored by ABC of NC Child Development Center