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Transcending all racial, socio-economic and ethnic groups, the developmental disorder Autism can make schooling a particular challenge to Autistic students. About 1 in 88 US children have an autism spectrum disorder, with boys almost 5 times more likely to display symptoms than girls. With such a significant portion of youth being on the spectrum, schools must determine the best way to meet students on whatever place on the spectrum they happen to fall.
To help streamline instruction and provide consistency for students with autism, many schools are turning to technology. While electronic devices are expensive, the cost can be significantly less than finding, hiring and training teachers to provide one-on-one or small group instruction. The wealth of apps and other resources available for use with that technology also gives schools the potential to meet a variety of needs through a single device. Rather than giving total control and responsibility for learning to teachers, bringing technology into the classroom gives autistic students an element of control and a general sense of confidence when it comes to learning.
Many apps and computer games feature elements that are already known to be beneficial to autistic students. Visual learning techniques can improve communication, and tactile learning through using the touchscreen can help students improve their motor skills. Apps are usually customizable for each student making it easy to develop bespoke learning tools for students on any part of the autistic spectrum. Although there have been some concerns suggested about the use of iPads with children with autism such as potential fixation with an app, and the fragility of the hardware, studies have found that educational technology has shown improved communication and social skills.
While teachers will always have an important role to play in teaching autistic students, apps for autism may help improve the way many students with autism can learn.
Avaz is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app that features over 5,000 vocabulary words. It encourages communication in children who have problems with communication, first through pictures and then through text. Adults can also customize the app with new words and images for children, and the app has a therapy sessions tracker to monitor the child’s progress.
Schedules can make a world of difference in the life of an autistic child. Visual Routine allows teachers to create both text-based and image-based schedules to help children get through the day. Personal images and audio can be uploaded to each step in a daily routine, and up to four choices can be built in to each step allowing students to choose between options.
AutisMate bills itself as the complete app for autism because it is designed to be used by autistic children in multiple ways. The app itself combines multiple apps into one, including visual schedules, visual stories, a sentence builder, and video modeling tools. These apps helping children learn to communicate and develop life skills. AutisMate provide free Webinarsfor new users, some highly inspirational success stories, and a handy step-by-step guide.
Social stories help many autistic children learn how to interact with the world around them by describing a social situation with cues, appropriate responses and support. With StoryMaker for Social Stories, teachers can create custom social stories, adding personal or stock images and audio for the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
A BuZoo Story gives students who have trouble playing games in the traditional sense another way to hone their skills using touchless technology. The simple game is controlled by body gestures, and players learn to recognize animals and spell each animal in turn. While it can be also be played as a touchscreen, this game can be useful for students having difficulties with communication and touchscreen technology.
Some autistic children have trouble managing emotions and behaviors. With Zones of Regulation, they can learn to identify stressful situations and learn how to properly manage their emotions. Children learn how to recognize and categorize their emotions and behaviors within four zones, and use calming techniques, and cognitive strategies to help them move between these zones.
Designed to be used by teachers, PECS Phase III is one of the lower-priced apps for autistic students, but that doesn’t limit its possibility. Based on theories of Applied Behaviour Analysis, teachers choose pictures within the app (or add their own) and use them as part of picture discrimination activities with one or multiple students.
Another augmentative and alternative communication app, GoTalk Now can be customized for different use by different levels of users. Adults can also add audio recordings, build scenes to accompany words and incorporate images, music and videos within the app.
This iPad app combines the LAMP (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) therapy method with the Unity language system to create a communication system for children with autism. Instead of simply focusing on random objects and other nouns, the system focuses on commonly used words.