23 February 2015 16:55

The use of the Apple iPad to teach children with severe autism does not enhance their education say psychologists.

Dr Melissa Allen from Lancaster University said: “Contrary to our predictions we did not find an advantage for learning with the iPad.”

The introduction of the Apple iPad in 2010 has seen its use skyrocket in educational settings, though very few studies have investigated whether children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) benefit from iPad-based learning compared with more conventional picture-based mediums.

Researchers Melissa Allen, Calum Hartley and Kate Cain looked at whether children with ASD are better at acquiring new vocabulary and conceptual knowledge of object categories from iPads or traditional picture books.

The study published in Frontiers in Psychology looked at minimally verbal children because children with ASD often fail to acquire spoken language, with devastating impacts on their lives.

They presented the children at Hillside Specialist School in Preston with colour photos of objects both in picture books and on an IPad 2.

Dr Allen said: “Importantly, the results of the mapping test revealed that medium of presentation – iPad or book – did not impact on children’s extension of labels from pictures to real objects.”

Instead, the study found that children with ASD were more likely to label the object correctly when it was presented to them in several different ways.

 “The content being presented may be a more significant influence on children’s symbolic understanding of word-picture-object relations than the medium of presentation.”