Assistive Technologies for People with Autism

Assistive Technologies for People with Autism

From 2000 to 2008, autism was the fastest growing form of disability diagnosed in children living in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that currently, nearly two percent of the children in the United States live with Autism Spectral Disorder. The variety of symptoms that accompany the disorder sometimes make it difficult to speak or interact with others. They may have learning disabilities or difficulty using modern technology. However, there are many assistive technological devices available that enable affected children to improve their functionality.


Types of Assistive Devices


Assistive devices for individuals living with ASD are categorized as low, mid and high tech. Examples of low tech include dry erase boards, calendars, photographs, and simple written directions or instructions. Mid-tech devices include tape recorders, talk pads and other similar types of communication technologies. High tech devices may come in the form of software for computers or mobile devices. They might also include video recorders. Adaptive hardware teaches ASD individuals how to use computers to further their learning skills.


Communication Difficulties


Some people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, have difficulty verbalizing to express themselves or do not speak at all. Speech generating devices are high tech units that feature a panel of icon-covered buttons or switches that when activated, play pre-recorded speech. Using the tools, children and adult may form sentences using the specially designated word buttons. The devices are available in different designs that may include a standalone device or software that is easily installed in a smartphone or mobile device.


Social Deficits


It is not unusual for autistic people to have difficulty socializing with others. With the help of high tech devices, affected individuals learn social cues and skills through imitation. One type of technology designed to teach social skills involves a software computer game. The game helps children and adults learn to use facial cues according to emotions and behaviors.


Adaptive Hardware


Touch screens enable ASD children to navigate and interact with computer programs without having to use a mouse or touchpad. Intellikeys are customizable overlays that commonly feature the alphabet and mouse directions. Big Keys is similar to Intellikeys. However, the overlays feature larger keys that are color-coded for smaller children to use a computer keyboard efficiently.


All of these technologies were created and serve with the function of improving the lives of those with Autism. It is exciting to see how far they have come, and how they will continue to develop as time passes and technology improves.