09/07/2012 12:32 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2012

Mobile Apps Could Help People With Autism In The Workplace

Mobile gadgets provide numerous easy distractions from work. But what if these devices could actually help people with developmental disabilities stay on task in the workplace?

A team of occupational therapists recently published a four-year study of three people with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD. The subjects were all provided with a job and given a specially programmed iPod touch to help them keep that job. Each iPod featured several apps, including task reminder alarms, checklists and video prompts for self-managing behavior. The three people with an ASD used the iPods to help them work successfully as custodians or housekeepers. The study is in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation. [Tony Gentry et al., The Apple iPod Touch as a vocational support aid for adults with autism: Three case studies]

The CDC says that about one percent of all U.S. children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Only about 15 percent of U.S. adults with an ASD have paying jobs.

As millions of us allow mobile devices to impair our communication and socialization, those with an ASD may find that the same devices can help them become better integrated into society.