Using technology is not a new concept for many autistic children. Apps on smart phones, voice recognition software, books on tape, and special pencil grips are all used widely today by autistic children and adults. Now there are several new developments in both software and hardware with a goal of helping autistic children in the classroom and at home.
According to the Nielsen report, “The Digital Consumer“, the average house in the United States has at least 4 digital devices. That means smart phones, tablets or computers. According to the same report 84% of us are using one of these devices at the same time we are watching television.
With all of those screens it should come as no surprise that software and technology companies are working hard to take advantage of this trend.
Akili Interactive Labs has partnered with DELSIA (Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism) to test the use of video games as therapy. Early testing has demonstrated that their games help users with attention, focus and problem solving. The games target the pathways that direct executive brain functions. The company is now working through clinical validation of the therapy with plans to create a new medical gaming platform that can be used by anyone with a mobile device.
Akili is developing games specifically for smart phone and tablet devices because the company wants to ensure that individuals can use the games and benefit from them without any extra cost for special training or equipment. The use of games to teach has proven to be effective for all age ranges and the ability to use the same game in multiple settings will reinforce the skills that are learned.
Another company, Aldebaran Robotics, has launched a program to provide NAO (pronounced now) robots to autism classrooms. These friendly looking robots were originally intended to help homeowners with a variety of tasks, but the developers soon discovered a new market. These small robots have proven very useful as classroom aids to help teach autistic children social skills.
The robots have limited facial expressions and a moderated tone of voice. Not needing to decider subtle body language or tone of voice allows children who struggle with non-verbal communication to interact more comfortably with the robot. Three of the robots have been donated as part of a pilot program to schools in Boston. The company has developed more than 50 apps for the robot that are for autistic students.
The robots can be purchased as well and several school systems throughout the country have purchased robots for both their autism programs and regular school classrooms. Software and programing can be done by local experts and does not require Aldebaran resources.
These are 2 examples of new technology that are designed to help autistic students in the classroom and at home. Technology continues to evolve and new advancements promise even more technology to help autistic students in the future.