Assistive Technology for Autism
Technology is constantly changing. One of the major ways that technology is changing the autistic community is through assistive technology.
But what is assistive technology and how can it help your child with autism?
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is any type of technology or device that is used to assist people with disabilities in their daily lives.
This can include things like wheelchairs, hearing aids, and text-to-speech software.
The goal of assistive technology is to help people with disabilities to better communicate, learn, and live independently. It can be used by people of all ages, from children to seniors.
What can children with autism use assistive technology for?
There are many ways that children with autism can use assistive technology to help them in their daily lives. Some examples of assistive technology that may be helpful for children with autism include:
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices: These devices allow children with autism to communicate their needs and wants, even if they are nonverbal or have difficulty speaking.
Computer software: There are many types of software that can help children with autism to learn, communicate, and socialize. For example, there are programs that can help children with autism to learn to read and write, as well as social skills training software that can help children with autism to better understand social cues and interact with others.
Adaptive devices: These are devices that can help children with autism to perform everyday tasks more easily, such as dressing themselves or brushing food.
Sensory integration equipment: Children with autism may have sensory processing issues, and certain types of equipment can help them to better regulate their sensory input. This can include things like weighted blankets, vibration cushions, and sensory integration swings.
It’s important to note that every child with autism is unique and will have different needs, so the specific assistive technology that is most helpful will depend on the individual child. An ABA therapist can often help to identify the assistive technology that would be most helpful for your particular child.
Now that you know what assistive technology is, we’ll list some of the best ones on the market that can help your child.
The best assistive technology for your child with autism
We will break down the assistive technologies into the different ways that they can help your child:
Assistive technology for communication
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices: These devices come in many different forms, including speech-generating devices, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), and sign language. These devices can help children with autism to communicate their needs and wants, even if they are nonverbal or have difficulty speaking.
Text-to-speech software: This type of software allows children with autism to type out what they want to say and have it spoken aloud by the computer. This can be especially helpful for children who have difficulty speaking but are able to type.
Picture exchange communication systems (PECS): With PECS, children with autism use pictures or symbols to communicate their needs and wants. They may carry a book of pictures or symbols with them and point to the appropriate picture to communicate a message.
Assistive technology for modeling behaviors
Social skills training software: There are many types of software that are specifically designed to help children with autism learn social skills. These programs often include video modeling, which involves showing the child a video of a person performing a desired behavior and then asking the child to imitate the behavior.
Virtual reality programs: These programs use virtual reality technology to create immersive environments in which children with autism can practice social skills. For example, a child might put on a virtual reality headset and interact with virtual characters in a social setting, practicing behaviors such as making eye contact and taking turns.
Video modeling: This can be done with a computer or smartphone, and involves filming a person demonstrating a desired behavior and then showing the video to the child with autism as a way to model the behavior.
Social stories: These are short stories that describe a social situation and the appropriate behaviors for that situation. They can be written or presented in video format and can be a helpful way to teach children with autism appropriate social behaviors.
Visual supports: Visual supports, such as picture schedules or social stories, can be helpful for children with autism in understanding and modeling appropriate behaviors. These supports can provide a step-by-step guide to completing a task or can be used to describe social situations and the expected behaviors.
Assistive technology for scheduling
Visual schedules: These schedules use pictures or symbols to represent different activities or tasks. Children with autism can use visual schedules to see what they will be doing next and to understand the sequence of events. Visual schedules can be presented in a number of formats, including physical picture cards, mobile apps, or computer software.
Timers: Timers can be a helpful way to let children with autism know how much time they have left to complete a task or activity. There are many types of timers available, including physical timers that can be placed on a desk or table, and mobile apps that can be used on a smartphone or tablet.
Reminder apps: These apps can be set to send notifications to remind children with autism of upcoming tasks or appointments. The reminders can be set to go off at a specific time or can be set to repeat at regular intervals.
Calendar software: Calendar software can be used to create a visual schedule for children with autism. The calendar can be set up to show appointments and tasks for the day, week, or month, and can be set to send notifications as reminders.
Task lists: Task lists can be a simple and effective way to help children with autism keep track of their tasks and responsibilities. Task lists can be created on paper or on a computer, and can be customized to fit the needs of the individual child.
Assistive technology for Motivation
Video games: Some children with autism may be more motivated to engage in tasks or activities when they are presented in a game format. There are many types of video games that can be used to teach children with autism a variety of skills, including social skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.
Virtual reality programs: Like video games, virtual reality programs can be a motivating way for children with autism to learn and practice new skills. The immersive nature of virtual reality can make it more engaging for children with autism, which can help to increase motivation.
Music: Some children with autism may be more motivated to engage in tasks or activities when music is involved. Music can be used to help children with autism learn new skills or to motivate them to complete tasks.