How Assistive Technology can aid individuals with autism in full participation
By Rose Akinsehinwa April 2019
The theme from the United Nations for 2019 Autism Awareness month is “Assistive Technology, Full Participation”.
Assistive Technologies (ATs) are tools or devices that aid the user in an area of disability or difficulty. For individuals with autism, there are a lot of advantages in the use of assistive technologies due to the many challenges they have in relating with people and the environment. ATs can be for people of all ages and they help in promoting independence, expanding communication and increasing social interaction for individuals with autism. Examples of ATs that can be useful for active participation of individuals with autism include:
Sound Sensitivity devices that can be used in the classroom to alert a teacher if the classroom is becoming too noisy for the child with autism in her class. This device works like the traffic light by being green when all is okay, turning amber when the noise is building up and red when the room is too noisy for a child with hypersensitivity to sound. In cases where the noise can’t be helped, another technological device called the Noise Cancelling Headphones can be used. These devices can help a child participate fully in an inclusive classroom.
Organizational Apps which are loaded onto iPads or Tablet devices are a great tool for scheduling and organization of daily activities, creating check lists and keeping track of important items. Due to poor executive functioning, individuals with autism might need help with being organized, therefore, teaching them a skill has to be broken into the smallest steps and missing a step might not give the desired outcome. With organizational apps, an individual with autism can learn functional skills like getting dressed, cooking a meal by following a recipe and so many other task needed for daily living and learning that will help them live independent lives.
Language and speech deficits are a major challenge with a lot of individuals on the autism spectrum. With Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices, they are better able to communicate with either a Picture to Speech or Word to Speech Apps. For advanced learners, they can be used to type full sentences all depending on the degree of need and capabilities of the individual. When an individual is able to communication their needs, wants and opinions, they feel a sense of belonging a can fully participate in activities wherever they find themselves.
For most individuals with autism, social skills are a big challenge. It is Important that they learn to relate with those around them and give appropriate responses or act accordingly in social situations. Social Skills Apps and Programs are available to help with facial expressions/emotions. With technology, video modelling can be done to teach many skills, play and social behaviour.