Great strides have been made in the past few years towards embracing the inherent challenges and discoveries made about the different degrees of autism.
Targeted diets, advanced educator training, multitudes of periodical resources and specialized mainstream community mentor programs are all available to lend support.
However, it is technology in the classroom that has propelled so many where there has never been the same capability before. These advancements are an exciting and example of what is to come in the future, bringing autism education to a whole new level.
The Right Track
It’s important to know that, as a parent of an autistic child, you have a multitude of rights that you can rely on if you feel your child is not getting the proper tools in their school.
Many laws have been put into place to enable a smooth transition into the proper learning process for each individual child with special needs. Check with your local, state and federal resources to inquire about such legislation.
For classroom requirements, there is the Assistive Technology Act (ATA) which is intended to ensure that people with disabilities have access to assistive technology devices and services.
For comprehensive, umbrella resources there is The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which guides how states, school districts, and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services.
Basic Assistive Tools
Although assistive technology is associated with electronics, there are also certain basic requirements that are just as important to take note of. These are assistance tools that can make a huge difference, even if considered minimal. Your child should have access to what is needed for their individual challenge(s). Some of these include:
● Seating – Non-slip surface chairs, blocks for feet, head supports and bean bag chairs.
● ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) – Adapted eating utensils and drinking devices as well as specialized toilet seats and adaptive dressing devices.
● Mobility – Wheelchairs, walkers and grab rails.
● Physical Play – Adaptive toys and games, sporting equipment and beeping balls.
Make sure your child’s learning environment includes these and other basic assistive tools to enable them to advance accordingly.
Advanced Assistive Tools
Once the basics are covered there are advanced assistive tools that are more unique, specific, expensive and essential for accommodating many autistic symptoms. Look for this technological in the classroom of your child. If you do not find what you need, either obtain it yourself or refer to the ATA and other legislative resources for help.
● Visual Aids – Although autism does not always associate with weakened vision, having advanced visual aids can help focus an autistic student more efficiently. These may include enlarged images, screen magnifiers, captioning, and large print books.
● Auditor Aids – The same concept is applied to hearing. Classroom amplification, books on tape and hearing aids all target focused encouragement.
● Reinforced Communication – To effectively relate in the classroom as well as integrate into more social relations, reinforced classroom technology for communication can help. Assistive tools such as smart boards, tablets, speech synthesizers, eye gaze boards, and social computer games can make a difference.
Motion Sensor Video Games
According to an article by USA Today on how video games help autistic children in the classroom, Motion sensors like the ones used in the Xbox Kinect games “have become a big deal in the world of autism therapy and education.”
By setting up video game personas, “Researchers have found, autistic children easily interact with an onscreen avatar that mimics their motions.” According to Dan Stachelski of the Lakeside Center for Autism in Issaquah, Washington, “For kids with autism, there’s a certain social awkwardness and a lack of ability to recognize emotion, and to respond to emotion and verbal cues in an appropriate manner.”
As a result, software engineers at the University of Michigan specifically designed motion sensor activities specifically for autistic children. One is called ‘Tickle Monster’ where “kids tickle imaginary creatures onscreen and learn about both appropriate touch and facial expressions.” Stalchelski describes that, “the game world is more predictable and less threatening than real life” making it easier to advance in what once took months or even years of therapy to accomplish.
As technology in the classroom continues to advance, try to stay on top of its progress. Talk to others in your community; read studies and blogs; stay connected through social media and physical outings. Most of all, keep the positive attitude that will surely influence your child toward a more fruitful educational and life-lesson path.
Originally born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents (more or less modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top priority. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a freelance health writer, and continues to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals.
This article was featured in Issue 37 – Making Educational Strides