Assistive Technology is any kind of technology that can be used to enhance the functional independence and quality of life for a person with Autism. Children with autism can process visual information much more easily than auditory information. By using assistive technology devices these children are able to process information through their strongest processing area which is, visual abilities.
How can a child benefit from Assistive Technology for Autism?
Assistive technology can help children learn in a way that makes understanding easier. It helps reduce the barriers children may face that prevent them from being at the same level as their peers.
Most children with autism are visual thinkers. Pictures act as a first language for these children. Technology makes visual images more accessible to an individual on the spectrum. Computer graphics capture and hold their attention. Some children prefer auditory assistance and are better able to respond to lower sounds. Using technological devices can help adjust appropriate voice levels and sound according to the individual’s needs. It is believed that some children with autism cannot see and listen at the same time. With the help of assistive technology for autism, they can gradually increase their ability to use both or alternate between visual and auditory input.
Some children on the spectrum prefer non-verbal communication to interact with others. They can use technology as a voice output device to communicate and help them express themselves more fluently. Children with autism find it easier to associate words with pictures and the web can give them unlimited access to an array of pictures and words.
A difficulty with fine motor skills is another issue faced by children with autism, making simple tasks like handwriting difficult. This can cause a lot of frustration which may lead to disinterest towards learning. Using a keyboard, touch screen, or speech-to-text app can reduce the difficulty and frustration which in turn helps children enjoy the learning process.
Furthermore, some children are unable to follow patterns or sequence of a task. With the help of assistive technology, one can reduce the number of steps required for the completion of a task or give a visual representation of the task steps in sequence.
Many children with autism learn to read phonetically, while others learn visually with whole words. Voice output devices can help with the auditory reinforcement, and computer graphics can help the students visualize the words, thus increase their reading skills too.
Assistive Technology for autism can help them to better understand their environment, improve communication skills and social interactions, improve attention skills, expand motivators and above all increase independence.
To conclude, there are over one million apps available that can assist children of all age groups and their individual needs. There is an app for almost anything and everything one can think of. However, it is important to make the right choices, keeping in mind individual and personal needs. Assessment and data are necessary before making an informed decision about any technology being used as a means of learning and development.