Many people with non-verbal forms of Autism use light-writers or other expensive and cumbersome gadgets to facilitate communication. If they break they con cost thousands of dollars to replace. Today there are some more affordable and fashionable alternatives. I can't compare them to the light-writer since I have no personal experience with one. I am familiar with ipods (ipads I guess are like ipods on steroids). I also have a droid phone which can take apps. There are ways to use these things to benefit communication for those with ASD. I will try to review a few options I know of. I also like to remind people in general of all the practical things the devices they always have around are capable of. People tend to forget that there is more potential to what is right under our noses than just video games, texting, and watching YouTube videos of some strangers baby laughing at a funny face, or finding out what your old acquaintance had for breakfast on Facebook. Here's a link to a site with some of the more advanced apps for Autistic people. Always check to see what more is in the pipeline: www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/autism-apps
As for apps which I'm more aware of I'll mention a few here:
*Speak It: You just type and it will read out loud what you wrote. You can also cut and paste into it and have it read an article to you as you do something else. On some devices such as a droid phone you can even make it a talking wake-up alarm. There is a choice between a male and female voice as well as British and American English. I'm sure there are other apps similar to this.
*Dragon dictation: Types what you say. It might not get every word but it is amazingly close and you can always proofread it later. I would have loved to have this back in school for use in writing term papers. There are other apps like this one too. A problem is I tend to forget that I have this. There is also a dragon search on my ipod which searches what you say. My droid phone has its own voice search. Only thing is I prefer to use this when I'm alone so people don't yell "What did you say? every time I speak into the microphone.
*Calculator: Most phones and gadgets have calculators, some even advanced. People sometimes forget it's there.
*Dog Whistler: I'm not sure how accurate it is but you can use it to test your hearing by the range of sound frequencies you hear. It is well known that this range decreases with age.
*Notes: There on almost every smart phone. I try to use mine but tend to forget and I'm not always big on typing on my thumbs if I'm in a hurry. This can save time and money in a grocery store. There also apps for voice reminders.
*Alarm: Most gadgets have alarm clocks and they can be highly customized. You can set several alarms and use them as reminders if you are absent minded as I can be. You can set several alarms and even use a voice reminder as an alarm on some devices.
*Brainwaves: There are apps that with the use of headphones can help you adjust your brainwaves. I've tried it and can't say for sure if they work or not, but the app didn't cost much.
*Youtube: It's not just for fun, there is a lot of very educational things on just about any topic you want to search.
*Need God?: There's some apps for that. There are Bibles, Korans, Torahs, guided Rosaries, Examinations of Conscience (more for Catholic and Orthodox) Christians. The Catholic Church even has their whole catechism on smart phone. I know Bible's are everywhere, but you can't do a word or topic search as fast with an old fashioned book.
*There are games which can be educational and therapeutic though I don't know as much about them. It's something one can look into.
*There are "Kindle" type apps where you can install an e-book reader on an ipod, ipad, or smart phone.
*A compass if you get lost. I have a free compass on my Droid. It works surprisingly well though not perfect.
*Howcast and E-How: Step by step, linear advice and instructions on how to do just about anything. Although some topics are better than others and some just state the obvious. Still, you can find out to change a flat tire if you need to.
*Online and offline Encyclopedias: No more 20 volumes to go through just one word search.
*Calendar: Most people know they have this but forget that you can set most of them to remind you of appointments or events.
*itunes and the Amazon.com equivalent on Droid phones: Not just for music or movies, but you can learn a new language, get educated on just about any topic, get audiobooks, take college courses, get free podcasts, and get free Ivy-League college seminars. You can in a sense attend Harvard while bathing in the Jacuzzi or taking a suntan- careful with the suntan though.
*Health apps: Look up any health problem for free and even get first aid advice. Web-MD and Discovery Health are just some. These can save your life and be a comfort to hypochondriacs.
*Urban Dictionary: While it won't so much teach unwritten rules it will teach the real meaning and context of almost any slang or subculture related term you can think of...
An Image and document scanner which works pretty well. I use it to get my schedule for work and have it on my phone.
*Radio: There is streaming radio that includes talk radio on about any topic you want to know more about. NPR is a notable example. Yes, I know they're supposed to be biased and all that but not all the topics covered are political or religious.
Instead of complaining about how scary all this technology is and dreaming up conspiracy theories (which there are plenty of on talk radio), why not just take advantage of what is already here before the next ice age, rapture, or Apocalypse.