The iPad is Never a Reward
That said, it can be used a motivated reinforcer in a program designed for an individual student by a licensed teacher or specialist, such as in Pivotal Response Training, or a behavioral work economy.
The distinction is as follows: a student gets to decide what to do with a toy, and a teacher uses an academic tool to tell the student what to do. The teacher or specialist who designs an academic or therapeutic program can determine how much leeway a given student is allowed for making selections among that program’s options. Tbecause that is a design decision (as opposed to an implementation selection), it is not to be made by other staff members.
The iPad is not for playing games, watching videos, reading books, or listening to music for entertainment. The student's program designer can certainly include these sorts of highly engaging activities when there is face-to-face interaction with staff members to monitor that value as a motivated reinforcer.
The iPad is never for touchscreen stimming.
Some of our students are one-trial learners. If they come to feel that this device is a toy, it can take a whole lot of unlearning (as in years) to rescue it for academic, therapeutic, or communication use.
Do not use your personally owned devices in this manner either (whether iPad, iTouch, iPhone, or other similar items), because the students will not tend to distinguish between your devices and the ones belonging to the school. If the student needs such a device, then a specialist (e.g., AT or AAC) will be brought in to evaluate that need and provide it when appropriate.
If the student has one at home that is used as a toy, then sometimes we get lucky and the student will understand the difference between the home and school devices because the contexts are so different. That’s not the case when these are also used as toys at school.