By Gillian Hayes, director of technology research at The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders and associate professor of informatics at UC Irvine
In the past few years, technology has been a big breakthrough in helping kids with autism learn and helping parents improve care for their children. I’ve witnessed this first hand through my work my work with the Social and Technological Action Research Group, wherein I help create, review and test new autism technologies.
Technology allows us to teach students in a personalized and customized way, despite limited human resources. When you add into the equation that so many kids find computers, smart phones, tablets and so on just inherently appealing, you have the ability to draw them in, retain their attention, and provide customized educational content all in one nice little package.
While people have been using computers for kids with autism for decades, the advent of simple, mobile apps has enhanced and widened our ability to reach children with autism through technology.
There are several apps in particular that I recommend for parents and guardians of children with autism:
The Autism Tracker Pro can help parents see the patterns in their kids’ behavior, as well as empower them to make their own decisions about treatments.
For non-verbal children, the app Proloquo2Go allows children to tap out what they want to say with the help of symbols. This app is expensive, but it’s less costly than the specialized hardware platforms that it replaces.
Finally, check out i.AM Search. This app helps parents find other apps that will help children with autism and their families.
Outside of apps, software that was developed for other settings has helped autism education as well. For example, shared calendaring, which is present on nearly all laptops and smart phones, is transformative for older students with barriers to employment and independent living.