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What Technology Can Do for Children with Autism

It is widely known children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) enjoy watching television, playing video games, or interacting with anything that has a screen. With the technological advancements being made, doctors and researchers have learned how to incorporate computers and other technological products such as this to children with ASD. They have found not only will this new technology help them enhance their ability to read, but it also can help them in their social learning and communication.

What is autism spectrum disorder you ask? According to Autism Society, it is a “complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects the person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.” This disorder affects roughly one out of every eighty-eight children born in the United States alone.

With these statistics, it’s obvious that lengths need to be taken in order to better the learning of children with ASD, which is exactly what these doctors and researchers have tried to accomplish.

In an article by Walter Pacheco for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote about  4-year-old Christopher Gómez who had the opportunity to use a new form of learning that incorporated 3-D, interactive pictures and words. This new use of technology in the special education classroom helps “the school’s fifty autistic children overcome the challenges they encounter when learning to read.”

Because the 3-D images move along with the accompaniment to an audio recording, it makes a long-term impression on the learners, providing them with an easier way to read.   However, where some children with ASD are learning how to read, there are others of whom their ASD is more severe, meaning they have a difficult time communicating on a more social level.

Generally speaking, children with autism are less likely to engage in socializing or be around large groups of people. Instead of being socially interactive, they have found that movies or games played on a screen are much more entertaining. However, due to their fixation with seemingly mindless entertainment, what little social skills they possessed were worsening with their lack of practice.

Janet Maragioglio wrote of various ways for parents to help use technology for the benefit of their child in the development of social skills. She found Smartphones and tablets, more specifically Apple’s iPad, would be able to help in this field. The wonderful facet of these devices is they are portable, and they also have applications (otherwise known as apps) that have the ability to help refine learners’ social abilities and improve their sensory motor skills.

Research has proven  “the same features that make smartphones and tablets interactive… can double as therapy devices for people with autism and other developmental disabilities,” which makes this new technology an invaluable tool for children with cognitive disorders.

An example of this is the story of 3-year-old Sharia Siddiqui. She was diagnosed with a clear case of autism, and would sit transfixed in front of the television for hours at a time. Because of this, both her parents worried about her. Sharia was completely non-verbal, and the only way she could communicate was through crying.

In 2010, when Apple’s iPad was released, Sharia’s father bought it so she would be able to communicate. Now, instead of crying, she points at pictures and words, giving her the control to communicate without resorting to other methods.

Through these stories, it is seen quite clearly that technology is being used to transform the lives of children with ASD and their families. There are well more than 700 apps for children with autism found in Apple’s App Store, including applications such as Proloquo2Go and First Words. This accessibility to programs such as these provides parents with new avenues to explore in order to better the lives of their children.

–Amanda

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