Work using tablet computers to help teach children with learning disabilities including severe autism has been hailed by academics.

The independent research carried out at Edinburgh University's Moray House School of Education found the introduction of iPads to a Glasgow school had shown 'encouraging benefits' in helping the children with communication skills, attention and focus.

East Park,a registered charity, provides education and residential care to children with additional support needs. At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year it introduced 21iPads to be used as education aids to help children develop communication skills, life skills and independence.

A study carried out at the Unversity's DART project (development autism research technology) said that the East Park Ipad Project had been highly successful and although the devices were designed primarily as personal entertainment tools, they were very effective in the classroom.

They increased the independence, motivation and responsibility of autistic pupils, while teachers found them easier to navigate than existing classroom technologies.

Teachers used them as organisational tools, to store lessons, collate pupils' academic work, to play music in the classroom and to take photos and videos of students.

Success varied depending on the level of confidence of the teacher in using the technology, the quality of the apps used on the devices and the level of sensory impairment of the pupils involved.

Researchers found that iPads were not beneficial for all pupils, with those who struggled to navigate its touch screen left unmotivated by them as a method of study. Apps which offered multiple functions, and age and stage appropriate features, and which responded immediately to touch were most effective.

A need to constantly recharge the tablets was one of the disadvantages.

However Sinead O Brien author of the report said: "Overall the implementation of individual iPads has been a success. The majority of teachers and students enjoyed using the iPad and experienced a range of benefits."

Dr Sue Fletcher Watson, an expert in autism and technology at the university, said the scheme could provide a model for other similar schools. "We are excited about the possibility that the team of East Park plus DART are helping to forge new understanding of the use of tech in schools and can later help to share this knowledge with others," she said.

East Park's Executive Director, Judy Cromarty, said; "We are looking forward to successfully implementing the learning from this report across all our services, to continue to improve how we support the children and young people's achievements."