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Family trades temper tantrums for iPad

Autism experts aren't surprised by one 3-year-old's rapid transformation from violent meltdowns to improved self-control--a transformation his family attributes to the iPad.

When a school therapist suggested that a family buy their autistic 3-year-old son Hudson an iPad, the Holmquists were willing to give it a try, and turned to ChipIn to raise money for a tablet for their child. Now the family is telling news media the device is a miracle.

The new iPad 2. Apple

Hudson, who was diagnosed with autism in 2010, went from several violent meltdowns a day (including one screaming session that lasted from morning until late evening) to, well, fewer violent meltdowns.

"The iPad has given us our family back," Laura Hudson told "It's unlocked a new part of our son that we hadn't seen before, and given us insight into the way he connects with his world."

Perhaps more surprising is that autism experts aren't surprised. Hudson is able to use the tablet not just for gaming and making puzzles but even for communicating ideas to a family that is really just now getting to know the kid behind the tantrums.

This trend has been developing since the iPad first came out in 2010.

A few dozen apps are already reportedly helping children with autism in some way, including FirstWords, Shape Builder, and apps for speech therapy, but the iPad setup itself is considered part of the allure. Without a mouse and keyboard, there is less distraction from the task at hand.

One mother told SF Weekly last August that her son Leo was able to use the iPad immediately, without any instruction, and that he would spend 30 minutes at a time on apps that teach skills such as spelling, counting, and remembering pictures--far longer than he was able to focus on the same tasks without the iPad.

Sometimes the best inventions come about by accident. And sometimes the way those inventions are used can take even the inventor by surprise. When the iPad was first unveiled, it was hailed by some as pointless. Then, in a matter of months, it launched an entire industry, with tablets being all the talk at CES 2011. And now it has garnered some serious fans in a population Apple may have never even considered.

As for little Hudson Holmquist, only time will tell how the iPad figures into his long-term future, and whether it changes his daily life for better or for worse.