Apps for Autism: Communicating on the iPad

Autistic people whose condition prevents them from speaking are making breakthroughs with the help of tablet computers and special applications that allow them to communicate

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[Josh: Happy...]

...what he wants...

[Josh: Toys.]

And what he watches on TV!

[Josh: TV News, 60 Minutes.]

My first "60 Minutes" interview on an iPad! I asked about his brother Jimmy.

Stahl: And how old is Jimmy?

Josh: Keyboard. Numbers. Two, six. Jimmy 26.

Stahl: So he's one year younger than you are? Is he your best friend? Does that mean you love him? Yeah.

Josh is typical of people with autism in that he rarely looked directly at me; he rocks, and he has obsessions: in his case, it's World War II.

[Josh: Hogan's Heroes Season Six.]

His therapist Tammy Taylor will never forget the first time she put the iPad into his hands: what had been bottled up inside him began to pour out.

Tammy Taylor: It just blew me away that he could actually tell me his brother had a goatee and was bald.

Stahl: He's completely communicating.

Taylor: Absolutely. He's part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now.

Stahl: Totally.

The language app that Josh uses is called "Proloquo2go."

[Josh: Josh's spaces. My place. Work.]

But there are other apps created specifically for autistic people: like "AutismXpress" to help children identify emotions.

And another called "Look in My Eyes" to practice eye contact.

Stahl: How do you feel about being on TV? Can you show me on there?

Josh: Categories. Feelings. Happy. Joshua happy.

Stahl: Tell me what's happening inside of you as your son starts to tell you what-- what he's been thinking. He's probably been trying to tell you for 27 years.

Nancy: Mind boggling, to tell you the truth. I always had said when he was younger, it was like, you know, he was a computer and I was computer illiterate. And I didn't know how to press the right keys-- sorry-- to-- to get him to communicate. It was just, you know, that-- that was the hard part, is you knew there was more in there, and you didn't know how to get it out.

Touch screen computers help Josh communicate. Can they do the same for these children at the Beverley School in Toronto, Canada - where half the students are severely autistic and more impaired than Josh?

The day we were there, kindergarten teacher Sabrina Morey struggled to figure out why seven-year-old Nathan was so upset.