Having worked for many years as a specialist careers counselor with young people on the Autistic Spectrum, I saw at first hand just how challenging it can be to move young people forward in a positive way. Specialists have to work within set structures and educational guidelines that don’t recognize the complexity of Autism. I was frequently frustrated at the lack of vision of many professionals.
However, I was also struck by the creativity and passion of those who choose to make helping these kids their career. These professionals are some of the most compassionate and innovative people I have ever come across, and incidentally, often quite unrecognized by wider society.
I would have loved to make use of the new technology that is becoming more accessible to staff, students and parents alike. Technology isn’t ‘an answer’ but it can sure help and sometimes in quite life changing ways.
Autism Apps: Smart Technology
The new smart technology that is available in iPads, smart phones and tablet PC’s is breathtaking. The potential for using this technology to help people with autism is amazing. The development of so many autism apps that are generally available for a reasonable cost and which cater specifically for special needs is vast, and growing. The opportunities are seemingly endless.
It’s worth sounding a note of caution however. Purchasing this technology is far from cheap and it is not an instant answer. As with all things it requires a certain amount of supervision and care. These are not toys, they’re not indestructible. They can’t withstand being hurled across the room because the music track in the background is too irritating for example.
Which Autism Apps or Technology Should You Choose?
Choosing the right technology for your child is important, as is price and manageability. A smart phone is cheaper and smaller to hold, but easier to lose or break. Also, the android market does not seem to be as advanced in its range of autism apps for special needs at the moment. The iPad is very appealing to all the senses and great to look at with a much bigger screen, but more expensive to replace if it gets damaged. The autism app range is quite vast.
It’s also worth considering that children with autism tend to become quite obsessive about certain things and the new piece of kit you introduce them to that is very touchy and feely could well be an item they become quickly attached too. So if you are thinking about getting one, make sure you introduce controls about time and use right from the start.
The other thing to consider is that although many companies and marketing strategies make out that there is a definitive ‘answer’ to your child’s communication/social/behavioural issues this is rarely the case. The special needs Apps on iTunes and Android are interesting, fun, helpful and are usually developed by highly qualified professionals in relevant areas, but they are only ever going to be another tool to add to your kit bag. It may even be that the App itself does nothing more than provide you with 10 minutes peace, but that in itself is invaluable.
Always consider what you want to get out of your purchase, this is true of whether you buy a smart phone or an iPhone or iPad or which autism app to try next.
I recently came across a fascinating project that is based in Edinburgh that is trying to look at ways to develop technology to help those with autism. CLICK-EAST stands for ‘Computer-based Learning in Children: the Edinburgh Autism Social-attention Trial’. It’s a research study that has developed a new iPad App for children with autism, designed to help them learn and practice basic social and communication skills in a fun way.
The aim is “to design an App which is effective as a learning tool, enjoyable for children to play, and fits in well to family life”. They have recently launched the FindMe App and the lite version is currently free to download.
I like what they have developed and I really like the fact that they are openly seeking feedback from users in order to improve it. When there is such an abundance of quality out there for those with special educational needs in terms of new technology, it can only make one feel glad. We just have to be careful how we approach it.
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!
Written by Redpeffer, a wonderful guest author of ours – thanks for updating us on the use of autism apps and the iPad!