“The varied use of technology for children with autism continues to receive limited attention, despite the fact that technology tends to be a high interest area for many” students with autism. (From Assistive Technology for Children with Autism, Written by Susan Stokes under a contract with CESA 7 and funded by a discretionary grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.)
- Many people with autism are visual thinkers. They think in pictures instead of language. Thoughts are like videotapes running in their imagination. Pictures are their first language, and words are their second language (Grandin). As concrete visual thinkers, people with autism process information well when they can look at a picture or words to help them visualize information.
- Technology makes visual images more accessible. Computer graphics capture and maintain the attention of people with autism.
- Nonverbal children and adults will find it easier to associate words with pictures if they see the printed word and a picture together.
- The world-wide web can give us unlimited access to pictures and words.
- Some autistic children will learn reading more easily with phonics (auditory), and others will learn best by memorizing whole words (visual).
- Voice output software helps with auditory reinforcement and computer graphics help students visualize what they’re learning.
- Some people with autism have problems remembering sequences to carry out tasks.
- Technology can reduce the number of steps required for completion of certain tasks.
- Often people with autism have difficulty with fine motor skills.
- Technology helps reduce the frustration involved with hand writing or drawing. Using a keyboard or touch screen reduces difficulty and helps students enjoy learning.
- It is thought that some nonverbal children and adults are mono-channel and cannot process visual and auditory input at the same time. Their immature nervous system is not able to process simultaneous visual and auditory input and so they should be given either a visual task or an auditory task.
- Using technology, they can gradually increase their ability or save their work to proceed step by step and can even alternate between visual and auditory input.
- Some children and adults have sound sensitivity and are able to respond best with low whisper sounds.
- Using computers we can easily download appropriate voice frequencies and tailor tools to individual needs.
- Some autistic individuals do not use speech for communication. Language learning can be taught if language exercises promote communication.
- They can use technology to produce words and learn the cause and effect of using appropriate speech.
- Autism may make verbal communication difficult, technology can increase communication by helping someone express themselves more fluently or by helping them learn how to express themselves.
- Technology also increases communication by allowing us to communicate using the sensory skills someone with autism prefers (e.g. using symbols and pictures, video email, etc…).