Autism AT: no need to be high-tech or expensive

Assistive technology for people living with a disorder on the autism spectrum does not have to be expensive or incredibly complicated to operate. Often times, simple practices that begin in childhood can be carried over into adulthood.

Organization, self help, social interaction and academic skills are a few of the areas where the right assistive technology can make a big difference in the life of someone with an autism spectrum disorder and are also areas that do not require a heavy amount of technological and/or intricate equipment.

Contrary to popular belief, technology does not always have to mean wires, buttons and switches. Assistive technology in particular, is anything, from a device to flash cards, that help an individual learn, grow and become the person they are meant to be regardless of ability.

Visual cues work well for people with autism spectrum disorders because they are interactive and a bit easier to process over auditory cues. For instance, pictures around the house identifying proper actions may have more of an impression than simply telling a person what to do. A dry erase board is an effective piece of AT in that they provide a platform to write daily/weekly or monthly schedules or appointments.

If visual cues are hard for the user, try using black and white line drawings instead. Mayer-Johnson’s Boardmaker is a great place to start. Photographs or objects used as symbols, like a fork for lunch, might be worth a try as well. These can be placed in sequential order to help the person with autism go through the steps needed to independently complete a task or go through a day. Individual tasks can be further broken down as needed, and “all done” envelope placed at the end of the sequence to indicate a task has been completed.

Binders are also another low-tech option for AT. By compiling appointments and photos, daily schedules can be made in a format custom designed for the user. Each page can represent a different activity or time a task must be completed. Sections can be color coded to represent morning, afternoon and night. The possibilities are endless!

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