In the article entitled “Assistive Technology for Children with Autism” author Susan Stokes addresses the use of technology to assist individuals with various developmental disorders and disabilities. According to Stokes, the use of various forms of technology for such purposes is fairly common, but asserts that the use of assistive technology for individuals with autism has “received little attention,” and claims that there are numerous ways in which various forms of technology could be beneficial in treating autism. Stokes offers information about the problems and symptoms associated with autism, and explains a number of ways that various types of technological assistance could benefit those with the condition.
According to Stokes, the use of technology could help sufferers of autism to improve such areas as the “overall understanding of their environment, expressive communication skills, attention skills, motivation skills, organizational skills” and several other areas. Stokes defines “assistive technology” as any type of technology that helps people “increase, maintain, or improve functional skills.” In the context of autism sufferers, for example, Stokes claims that software programs such as “Boardmaker” offer children with autism a “visual representation system” that displays visual images –from simple line drawings to actual photographs- of various objects that can be used in place of verbal representations. Children can point to or otherwise interact with these images to express what they want, to who they are trying to communicate, or to send other non-verbal messages.
As the child develops greater capacities to interact with such software, claims Stokes, he or she can use it to play games, create and maintain schedules, and to engage in other activities that might otherwise require verbal communication. Teachers and parents can use this technology in combination with language-skill development to augment and improve the child’s overall communication skills. For children with autism, assistive technology offers a number of possibilities that might otherwise be unavailable, making the use of such technology a potential benefit to many individuals who suffer from this disorder.
Written by Susan Stokes under a contract with CESA 7 and funded by a discretionary grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.