Raising a Child with Autism in the Digital Age
In the United States today, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum. As many as 1.5 million Americans are living with autism, and this population is only expected to increase in the coming decade.
To match the rising percentage of the population affected by autism, tech-companies and software developers have been working to provide families with apps able to assist people with language issues and difficulty communicating.
For many autistic children who may not be able to learn verbal skills in the same way as their peers, iPads and other digital tablets present an engaging and alternative method of communication. Past studies have revealed a significant improvement in the speech abilities of children with autism, all thanks to the usage of iPads and simultaneous speech therapies.
With upwards of 800 autism apps available through places like the App Store, there are plenty of new options to explore for families affected by autism and speech-language pathologists alike.
Easy Apps when Language is Difficult
One of the most widely utilized augmentative and alternative communicative apps is called Proloquo2Go from Amsterdam-based AssistiveWave. Using the touchscreen, children are able to form sentences using familiar images and simple concepts. This is particularly useful for individuals without the ability to verbally articulate their wants and needs.
Before the mobile-device revolution, families with autistic children and their therapists were confined to paper cut outs or DVDs which had to be ordered and replaced as time when on. Now, digital versions of these tools allow a much broader range of communication for children with autism than ever before.
Considering that touchscreens are completely user-intuitive, many children are able to begin using devices like iPads almost immediately. Such technologies finally provide the outlet for heavily visual learners to begin interacting in a meaningful way with our world full of words.
Playtime Skill Building
Although iPads and tablets can provide some pretty groundbreaking progress for children with autism, they don’t usually come cheap, reaching to $400 or more for the device alone. Luckily, non-profits like the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation have helped parents get the tablet their child needs for seemingly endless learning opportunities.
However, because iPads also have a range of entertainment features like games and YouTube, it’s important to work with each child to develop a schedule for its usage. Parents and therapists can try changing the color of the iPad’s cover during playtime and when it’s time to learn in order to establish these as distinct activities.
Remember to be flexible – if it seems that the iPad is too much to handle at the moment, just come back to it later. Each child is different, so speaking at their level is important in order to help them remain open to communicating. The more opportunities children have to make their own comments or requests the greater impact these devices can be!
Although researchers are still uncertain as what the root causes of autism are, it’s given that there will be a greater need for assisted communication devices and software in years to come. Right now, we can continue to help those with autism build the skills they need to live happy and vibrant lives – even if it is through a touchscreen or two!