Using technology – such as computers, games and other devices – is a popular leisure time activity for autistic children. In today’s blog, we’ll be providing practical guidance to parents of autistic children to help them get the most benefit from technology and avoid associated problems.
So, why use technology?
When using technology, children on the autism spectrum:
- can learn new skills
- are often more motivated
- often show better concentration
- often initiate more contact with those around them, e.g. talking to their peers or showing teachers and parents what they have done
- make choices and direct their own learning and play
- might find ways to regulate their well-being – watching the same YouTube clip over and over might seem pointless, but it might be helping your child to manage their anxiety or just relax.
If your child uses a visual timetable, picture communication system, or social stories, you can now have all the stories and symbols you use on one device. Apps can help you easily create new symbols, schedules and stories.
Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization that funds research and increases awareness, reported that about 25 percent of people with ASD are largely nonverbal. Others are identified as low-functioning communicators. For such students, there are apps called “visual scene displays” that are most assistive for children struggling with verbal skills, according to Jules Csillag, a speech-language pathologist who focuses on special ed tech. Csillag told Huffington Post that as teachers become more comfortable with technology, they can “customize a curriculum for students” with autism.
On such app, SceneSpeak, creates interactive displays and stories with text-to-speech voices added to narrate scenes. Another app, Speech with Milo, helps children develop storytelling skills by creating an interactive storybook.
People on the autism spectrum can have a hard time with social skills that may come easily to those who are not on the spectrum. Some caregivers or those on the spectrum may choose to try to develop those social skills with technology and methods that can help individuals recognize facial and behavioral cues that can help social functioning. Two examples of these methods include video modeling and script training, where individuals learn pro-social behaviors based on imitation. Individuals can learn these skills in games like the following:
FaceSay produces games that can help ASD children/adults to better recognize behavioral and emotional cues. Their focus is on students who can benefit from this software in school and friendship relationships.
Daily Living Skills
In order to function independently, daily living skills such hygiene, organization skills, and recreational skills are important. Caregivers can help those with ASD with these skills, but individuals with ASD can also develop these skills and independence. It is important to remember that ASD occurs in a wide spectrum and that some with ASD might never have problems functioning independently, while others may need more assistance. Life skills can be taught through instruction and presentations, and also through special software like
Life Skills Winner is an application that allows users to score points while learning daily living tasks in an interactive setting. The application is available through the web and also on mobile devices.
With all that being said, some professionals recommend limiting screen time, especially for younger children. Some parents feel social pressure to limit their child’s use of technology. However, there is no good quality evidence that screen time negatively affects educational attainment or behaviour.
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