This post is an excerpt from the Digital Tips for Students on the Autism Spectrum breakout session at the Digital Citizenship Conference in Los Angeles led by Caren Rich, Psy.D., Educational Consultant at the Weinfeld Education Group. The conference was a rich environment for educators, law enforcement officers and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students shine in the digital world. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.
What is the definition of Autism? How do we define it?
Autism is a complex disorder of brain development characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Difficulties in social interactions and peer relations include the poor use of nonverbal communication, lack of social-emotional reciprocity, and lack of shared enjoyment. There can be a failure to develop speech, use of repeated speech, difficulties maintaining conversations, and lack of imaginative and symbol play. Restricted and repetitive behaviors include inflexibility to change routines, unusual preoccupations with narrow interests, repetitive mannerisms.
Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. Autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
Tracking devices are important for kids on the Autism spectrum because Autistic kids are more prone to getting lost or running away because their mind goes in one direction and they follow their mind. These tracking GPS devices allow parents to see exactly where their child is located on a map. A feature called “geo-fencing” also allows parents to set a virtual perimeter and if the child crosses that perimeter, the parent will receive a text message to alert them. However, these devices do not work indoors and they cannot tell you the exact location of the tracker.
What can an iPad offer students on the Autism spectrum?
An iPad is not a replacement for quality teaching and should not be used as a babysitter.
There are communication, social, and behavioral apps that allow children to communicate their wants and needs with just a touch through text to speech applications or picture exchanges. The iPad assists caregivers in identifying child’s knowledge and interests. It also gives the child control and the ability to filter out distractions.
When using the iPad, educators need to be aware that an iPad is not a replacement for quality teaching and should not be used as a babysitter. The educator needs to determine how the iPad should be used and when it should be used. It can also be used therapeutically as a calming tool.
The visual schedule is a great way to help students know what to expect from their day and to stay organized.
Helpful apps for Autism spectrum students:
Promote language development and grow communication skills.
These educational apps are best for younger children on the autism spectrum.
Great for allowing the child to calm themselves and decrease sensory overload.