Assistive technology devices are simple or advanced devices that can help in improving the quality of life of those suffering from disabilities. In this article, we will look into the types of assistive technology for autism.
The term ‘assistive technology’ refers to devices or products that are used for maintaining or improving the functional capabilities of people suffering from physical disabilities or developmental disorders. The development of a wide range of computer devices for the physically challenged has made the lives of people with disabilities much better. These devices have given them access to the vast information that is available on the web pages.
There are various types of disabilities that can affect children and adults, and the nature of the disability one may be suffering from needs to be considered while selecting such devices. Individuals diagnosed with any condition that is classified under the autism spectrum disorders, have impaired communication and often find it hard to relate to others and form relationships, which is why, augmentative communication devices can certainly help such individuals communicate in a better way. The main objective behind using such devices is to improve the communication skills of autistic children and help them become self-reliant. In this article, we would look at some of the common types of assistive technology for autism.
The Need for Assistive Devices for Autistic Children
Autism is a developmental disorder that develops in early childhood. Classic autism, Asperger’s syndrome, atypical autism, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder are all developmental disorders that are grouped under the autism spectrum disorders. Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction and repetitive behavior patterns. Such children are unable to relate to others, and understand their perspective. They often end up being friendless due to their inability to express themselves or reciprocate.
Children affected by autism often face problems in acquiring language skills. Since autistic children often face difficulty while learning languages and are unable to react properly in social situations, there is a great need to find ways to help them learn. This is where assistive technology comes into picture. There are various types of devices that can help such children learn to communicate better. Given below is some information on the wide range of assistive devices for autistic children.
Assistive Devices for Autistic Individuals
Visual representation systems have often proved helpful in helping such autistic children acquire language and social skills. Objects, photographs or drawings are often used so as to help the child identify objects or persons. Picture Exchange Communication System is one such simple augmentative communication tool that can help autistic children. These are a stack of picture cards that are bound together.
These picture cards may contain pictures explaining the child’s daily routine or the activities the child needs to perform. Since autistic children may have trouble maintaining eye contact, through these visual cues, the child can get a basic idea about things that must be remembered. Similarly, the child can also use visual cues or picture cards to tell others what he/she wants to say. Once the child grows older, simple battery-operated devices such as voice output communication devices, tape recorders or projectors can be used for improving the child’s communication skills.
If the child is learning how to use a computer, a switch interface box can be used to connect switches to the computer. Switches are big buttons that can help the child move the cursor or other keys on the computer. Electronic pointing devices, trackballs or joysticks are all devices that are used for controlling the cursor. So, if a child has problems using a mouse, these devices can be used for the same purpose.
Adapted mouse or easy-to-use keyboards are also available these days. If a child faces problems using the mouse or the keyboard, monitors with built-in touch screens may also help. Talking book readers, electronic books, screen enlargers, complex voice output devices or visual supports are some of the other assistive devices that can be used. Speech synthesizers that give feedback on what one has typed and large-print word processors are some of the other types of useful devices for autistic children or adults.
Though assistive devices can certainly help autistic individuals in a great way, importance of family support cannot be stressed enough. Parents must interact with such children so as to help them communicate. If parents and teachers work together, and refer to the guidelines given by therapists, marked improvement may be seen in the child’s communication skills. The use of assistive technology along with parental guidance and support can help autistic children grow into well-informed, self-reliant adults.