For those living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), learning valuable social and communication skills can enhance their quality of life. Today’s technology has made many devices available that can help people with autism learn these skills.
Some with autism spectrum disorder have shorter attention spans or trouble concentrating, and many are visual learners. A computer, tablet or mobile phone screen can help them maintain interest in what they are learning with bright, colorful graphics and animation.
Increasing Verbal Skills
According to the Indiana University at Bloomington’s Indiana Resource Center for Autism, communication issues can impact one’s quality of life and hinder the development of social skills and of being able to form relationships with others. This inability to communicate one’s thoughts and desires can lead to social isolation, frustration and behavior problems.
There are interactive websites and mobile apps designed to help develop verbal skills using colorful scenes and text-to-speech technology. For those with autism spectrum disorder who are nonverbal, these apps allow them to hear their words come to life as they are typed out. One app called SceneSpeak has interactive scenes that can be narrated using text-to-speech. Another app, Speech with Milo, allows children to create a storybook, enhancing their storytelling skills.
As they become more comfortable with communication, they will enjoy the benefits of more social interaction, increased self-confidence and personal independence.
Using Alternative Communication Devices
Speech-generating devices or SGDs are voice output devices that are helpful when there is a severe speech impairment or no speech at all. Some SGDs have fixed picture buttons to press, some have touch screens, and others have talking keyboards.
SGDs allow someone with autism spectrum disorder to press a button or type out what they wish to say, and their words are played audibly. You should consult a speech therapist about the best way to use this assistive technology in treating speech problems.
It’s also important to model how to use the device. For example, if he or she wants something, touch that picture on the device, so it says the word. Then you say the word and hand them the requested item.
Any attempts to say or ask for an item through the device should be rewarded immediately as this encouragement will go a long way in the learning process.
Using Therapy Bots To Learn Valuable Social Skills
Play therapy is another advancement, using robots like Sphero Mini, which allows the user to move a ball using facial expressions or to use it as a controller to play virtual reality games. Another robot, the QTrobot or “Cutie,” is shaped like a person and can see, hear, talk, gesture and even make facial expressions.
Social anxiety is common in those with autism spectrum disorder, and working with a device can be less threatening than interacting directly with a person. Working in groups in the classroom using technology such as robots and design programs can help ease this social anxiety.
Technology For A Brighter Future
For special needs adults with autism spectrum disorder, unemployment is common due to a lack of social and communication skills and today’s technology plays a vital role in developing these skills. Learning how to communicate and interact with others increases their chances of finding employment and of being more independent.
This can mean the difference between a life of quiet dependence and isolation or a more fulfilling and productive life, rich with new experiences.
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