Local autism treatment provider Easter Seals Tri-Counties announced they will soon use iPads as a tool for speech and behavioral therapy.

The group hopes to educate patients through language applications found at the Apple Store. Although the testing is still being studied, researchers stated there have been notable and positive responses from the test subjects.

Pam Burns, director of clinical services at Easter Seals Tri-Counties, said the idea to use the iPad for autism treatment sprung from the visual nature of the device.

“It has been proven time and again that people with autism are very visual learners, which makes the iPad a wonderful tool for them,” Burns said. “And the immediate response that they get from touching the screen is very rewarding for them as well.”

The autism treatment applications include applications such as iComm — which seeks to teach elementary concepts such as colors, numbers and body parts — and Autism Xpress, which aims to help autistic individuals express emotions more clearly. According to Burns, the researchers never really know which application will resonate most with patients.

“Recently we’ve been working with a youngster whose favorite app is one called Drums!, so he just sits there and taps on it and plays away,” Burns said. “And in one of the sessions he said the word ‘drum’ 10 times, which was really phenomenal.”

According to Mary London, CEO of Easter Seals Tri-Counties, researchers are taking proper precautions to ensure the research conclusions are well-founded.

“We really want to make sure that we go through all the steps and do a careful testing to be sure that we are actually building skills in these kids,” London said. “We want it to be more than just something fun for them to play with.”

One of the questions being raised about this form of treatment is the potentially high cost of the device. While London and her team realize this could concern families considering the iPad as a treatment resource, she encourages them to explore their options and consult their therapy center.

“Based on what we find with the outcome of the case study, we hope to be able to write a grant to obtain more equipment,” London said. “Depending on how things progress, we may also be able to assist parents in buying their own personal equipment.”

The Koegel Autism Center on campus has also begun to use the iPad to treat some patients. Sunny Kim, a doctoral student in the Education Program, was the first to begin use of the iPad as a resource and said the device has produced notable results in a short amount of time.

“The subject I am working with used to have trouble during class time, with writing assignments or even just being able to get through class,” Kim said. “But since we’ve introduced the iPad, it’s been like night and day, and you really can notice a difference in attitude.”

Burns said future medical use of the iPad may not be limited to the treatment of autism.

“I’ve seen the effect that it has had on these autistic patients and it is incredible,” Burns said. “And when you consider how much it helps people with poor motor skills, I’d say that the possibilities are endless.”