In the age of the iPad, tablet technology goes far beyond Facebook and Angry Birds. For many children with autism who struggle to communicate, it\u2019s giving them a \u201cvoice\u201d for the first time. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC, apps give nonverbal students the ability to select symbols representing words to express themselves via text-to-speech, while giving others a way to communicate with the student in a manner they understand. The ever-growing number of app options offer a simple-to-understand, portable and relatively inexpensive alternative to traditional low-tech systems, which were often the only option in classrooms even just a few years ago. \u201cThe cheaper and more practical access to AAC systems for our nonverbal kids has been the biggest game changer,\u201d says Darla Ashton, assistive technology coordinator for Carmel Clay Schools. \u201cWe have so many kids that are now \u2018talking\u2019 with their iPads who never were able to communicate with us before.\u201d Still, it\u2019s been a leap of faith for the early adopters of AAC apps to switch from the tangible picture and binder systems to an iPad. As for parents\u2019 concerns that AAC systems could hinder a child\u2019s ability to one day speak on their own, research shows just the opposite. Once a student understands how communication works, their verbal spoken output often increases. Heather Nichols, a significant disabilities instructional coach with Carmel Clay Schools who\u2019s worked in early childhood education for ten years, admits she was skeptical the first time she started a student with an app. \u201cI thought it would be difficult to use, but it wasn\u2019t long before I realized this was wonderful!\u201d she recalls. \u201cWe really had no idea that these children had the ability, at the age of three, to work with such a dynamic device.\u201d For parents who are considering AAC apps or who are new to the technology, Nichols offers some key tips: \t -Accept communication in all forms.\u00a0 Some kids use multiple strategies to communicate -- sign language, gestures, pictures and an iPad. Any communication is good communication. If you\u2019re working with an iPad and they want to sign for a drink, accept that behavior because you don\u2019t want to discourage any type of communication. \t -Ask around.\u00a0 Find out what technology your school offers. Consult your child\u2019s speech therapist. Connect with other parents. Do your own research. It\u2019s trial and error, so don\u2019t be afraid to try something new. If it doesn\u2019t click this time, try again later. Don\u2019t give up. \t -Respect the child\u2019s voice.\u00a0 If the iPad is going to be their voice, you have to treat it as such. You can\u2019t take away a child\u2019s voice, even if they\u2019ve asked to go to the park a hundred times in the last hour! As for parents\u2019 concerns that AAC systems could hinder a child\u2019s ability to one day speak on their own, research shows just the opposite. Once a student understands how communication works, their verbal spoken output often increases. For Cindy Seiler, whose 5 year-old son, Denver, has autism and is nonverbal, the iPad has been transformational both in and out of Nichols\u2019 classroom. \u201cIt\u2019s been a godsend. He can \u2018say\u2019 things like, \u2018Want cracker,\u2019 or \u2018Want milk,\u2019 or tell me what\u2019s hurting,\u201d she says. \u201cWhen there are those moments of frustration and he can\u2019t communicate, the second he gets the iPad in his hands, he\u2019ll stop crying, and he\u2019ll tell me what he wants or what he needs.\u201d Seiler also likes that Denver\u2019s iPad doesn\u2019t make him stand out at school, where tablet technology is now common in the classroom. Experts suggest that parents of children who use AAC apps learn how to navigate the technology themselves so they can help troubleshoot any problems at home. Parents should contact their school district to inquire about training. Local organizations like Easter Seals Crossroads also offer opportunities for training, so look into the community support available to help your child take advantage of the innovative technology available right at his or her fingertips.