Assistive Technology for children with Autism and Aspergers

The understanding of Autism and Aspergers is increasing every day and so is the understanding of assistive technologies and strategies used to help those living with these conditions lead meaningful lives.

The following are a sample of helpful organizational strategies and learning software programs that Susan Stokes, an autism consultant out of Wisconsin, finds helpful in building the developmental skills of a child living with Autism or Aspergers. Stokes divides the strategies into three categories, in order of lowest to highest forms of technology involved.

“Low” Tech Strategies
• Definition: Low cost technology strategies. For example, visual support strategies that do not involve any form of technology such as a dry erase board, a photograph, clipboards, etc.
• Regular and consistent use of individualized schedules help to increase a child’s organizational skills while at the same time fostering independence and discouraging challenging behavior.
• Examples of individualized schedules include calendars and visual routine checklists that tell a child what is currently happening, what will happen next, when they are “all done” with something and any changes that might occur. With each completion of a task, the child can mark off is done.
• Be careful to select images the child will find helpful. For example, if color tends to confuse or over-stimulate a child, use black and white instead visuals instead.

“Mid” Tech Strategies
• Definition: These strategies involve some type of battery operated device such as a tape-recorder, that enhance specific skill areas. Most devices in this category refer to Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs)
• It is important to understand that these products were created for use as an “augmentative means to expressively communicate.”
• These devices include “Big Mack”, “Talk Pad”, “Voice in the Box”, “Cheap Talk 4”, “Step by Step Communicator”
• VOCAs help to develop skills dealing with language comprehension, expressive communication skills, social and attending socials, organizational skills and academic skills

“High” Tech Strategies
• Two devices typically fall into this category, recording devices and computers. These two devices also come with a higher price tag.
Recording Devices: Children with autism respond well to videos played repeatedly because of the “predictability” of the situation, they know what will come next. This makes videos a great learning tool for various skill sets.
• These skills include, but are not limited to, language and social skills.
o Non-verbal social cues such as tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, etc. can be demonstrated and studied through the use of video as well.
Computers: The use of computers by children with autism could increase attention and focus while at the same time, increase fine motor skills and decrease agitation.
• In some cases the computer may need to be adapted to the child’s particular needs.

Adaptive Hardware for Computers

o Touch Window: This accessory allows the child to interact with and navigate the computer by touching the screen instead of using a mouse.
o The Touch Window is available for Macintosh or Windows platforms from Edmark for approximately $335.00.
o Intellikeys: In order to operate with the computer, the child pushes buttons located on an overlay that is placed on the Intellikeys. The Intellikeys come with standard overlays such as the alphabet and mouse direction; however, the keys are customizable depending on the program in use through the purchasing of extra accessories. The Intellikeys is available from Intellitools for approximately $350.00.
o Big Keys and Big Keys Plus: This software is similar to Intellikeys; however, it was designed with small children in mind. The keys are large (1 inch squares) with letters that are color coded. This keyboard is available from Greystone Digital (10) for approximately $150.00.

For more information about Susan Stokes and contact information, click here!
Want more Autism and Asperger’s product information? Click here!

The information for this blog came from the article “Written by Susan Stokes under a contract with CESA 7 and funded by a discretionary grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.”

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