Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a diverse group of conditions. According to the World Health Organization, around one in 160 children have ASD. Their abilities and needs can vary or evolve over time, which is why some people with autism can live independently, while others require life-long care and support. And as we discussed in our blog post on Eva’s Autism Diagnosis characteristics may be detected in early childhood, but more often are diagnosed later.
In Eva’s case, she wasn’t diagnosed until she was in year 6 having waited two years, her teacher suspected her to be autistic despite her masking it well and had referred us for diagnosis. Regardless of the symptoms, a person with ASD has — Eva, for instance, is sensitive but remains outgoing and chatty in public — autistic children need plenty of love, support, and acceptance. As parents, it’s important to seek out ways to help them. Research indicates that the use of technology alongside evidence-based psychosocial interventions can help children diagnosed with ASD overcome the challenges they face.
How Assistive Tech Helps
We know technology has served as a key tool in diagnosing ASD. The Edith Cowan University has recently begun research using high-tech 3D facial scans for a better understanding of the genetic causes of autism. Using machine learning techniques, the researchers found that parents of children on the autism spectrum had more asymmetric faces than other adults of a similar age, based on the measurements of 5000 facial points.
As for managing ASD, assistive technology can better allow children to handle difficulties in social interaction and communication. Assistive technology is anything that allows users with a disability to perform tasks they would otherwise find impossible to perform on their own. Often, children on the spectrum use assistive technology to complete daily activities and work tasks. Research points out that the use of technology leads to improved literacy, adaptive and social-communicative skills, and emotional detection in children on the spectrum. Assistive technology also presents information visually, which is more effective for children with autism to learn with than audio information.
Technology and Education at School
Schools are now embracing modern learning environments by heavily integrating technology into both classrooms and curriculums. As New Globe points out, education is a science. Powerful, technology-enabled systems allow schools to gather and apply data-driven learning improvements across the education system, which can enhance learning in the long run. Assistive classroom technology can help autistic students adjust better in formal education.
There are plenty of use-cases we’ve seen over the years. Communication apps have built-in features that support individuals with autism at all levels and abilities. Visual schedules and step-by-step checklists help ASD students get organised in class and master independent living routines. With tools that create a roadmap, they’re more confident to socialise — bridging the gap between them and other kids.
Technology can also be integrated into the curriculum itself. VR experiences, memory aids, audiobooks, and text-to-speech systems guide students through more advanced projects. In a STEM-based K-12 plan, for instance, students with ASD engage in a flipped classroom model, wherein they collaborate on using 3D printers, robotics, and computer-aided design programs.
Assistive Tech at Home for ASD
At home, technology can sharpen your child’s fine motor and life skills, or even reinforce speech and language therapies. As BBC Bitesize article notes, it helps to experiment with different methods because ASD often leads to a range of learning needs. If they’re struggling with low motivation, motivational apps can be especially helpful. Video modelling and social networking tools are also good for improving relational skills.
Some parents opt to apply technology for tracking their child and securing their homes as well, because these increase the independence of a child on the spectrum, while keeping them safe. Other devices and apps aim to improve their quality of life by reducing any sensory overload or stress; some are designed to help them sleep better — which ultimately leads to less agitation for everyone.
Technology is a boon for many families supporting a child with ASD, so don’t be afraid to try various tools that can make your lives easier.