Research indicates that due to a heightened interest in visual materials combined with strong visual processing capabilities, many individuals with autism benefit from using technology. From devices to apps to smart-home implementations, technology can help improve daily life for those on the autism spectrum immensely, and software and devices that are currently in development offer great promise for the future. In a recent edWebinar, Christian Karter, MA, educational technology specialist at Monarch Center for Autism in Ohio, reviewed the benefits of some of this helpful technology.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is some of most prevalent technology right now for individuals with autism. AAC can supplement or replace speech or writing and allows individuals to use technology to help them communicate. Using a tablet with a communication app loaded onto it is a common way to do this. If the individual is also using a tablet for personal use or play, Karter recommends using two tablets if it’s economically possible—one for personal and one for communication—or using the tablet only for communicating.

Apps & websites for people interested in AAC

  • Proloquo2Go is a symbol-based communication app.
  • Story Creator is not specifically an AAC app but allows a user to create simple social stories that can be helpful for communication and interaction.
  • Social Detective teaches how to use different social skills to investigate clues.
  • Lynda.com is an online training site that may be helpful for families of individuals with autism to learn how to use tablets and other devices.
  • AppAdvice and iOSnoops are two sites Karter uses to track app prices since some apps are on the pricier side.

Other technology can transform your house into a smart home and create a safer and more interactive environment. Automatic door locks, motion detectors, cameras, or room-to-room audio and communication can provide added security as well as peace of mind for families. While not a security measure, smart lights can be a helpful visual tool to implement in your home. Philips Hue is one brand that can change the color of lights with the time of day, such as purple lights to indicate bedtime.

New tech in development

There are new products on the horizon offering even more potential benefits than what already exists. With virtual reality, individuals can practice having an experience without needing to be in a stressful situation. ViTA DMF is creating software to do virtual job interviews. Augmented reality devices can be used to gain more information about the surrounding environment. Intel’s Vaunt and Microsoft’s HoloLens are smart glasses that will provide more information about objects and locations to the person wearing them.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits is developing software that will help with detecting emotions, which could be beneficial for individuals with autism that may struggle with detecting emotions in others or feeling out situations. Brain Power is using its Transition Master to help individuals transition to a new place before going there and Face2Face to improve interaction and eye contact by turning regular conversations into games.

Whether as simple as an app or intricate as virtual or augmented reality programs, technology can help to improve what can be an otherwise challenging daily life for those on the autism spectrum.

About the Presenter

Christian Karter, M.A., is the educational technology specialist at Monarch Center for Autism, a division of Bellefaire JCB, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He holds a master’s degree in community counseling and a bachelor’s degree in psychology, both from John Carroll University. He has worked at Monarch Center for Autism for 11 years as an associate teacher in the classroom and in his present role. Karter’s chief responsibilities include iPad deployment, Monarch’s PAIRS data system management, and introduction of new technologies into the classrooms.

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Teaching Students with Autism is a free professional learning community that provides ideas and resources for teachers working with students with autism, particularly advances in technology that can lead to significant breakthroughs in communication and learning.

This broadcast was hosted by edWeb.net and sponsored by Monarch Center for Autism, STAR Autism Support, and VizZle.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by edWeb.net. View more edWeb.net events here.]

About the Author:

Julia Ottesen is the community & public relations coordinator for edWeb.net. She coaches edWeb members, partners, and sponsors on using online networking for collaboration and helps to spread the word about how this collaboration helps teaching and learning. Contact her on Twitter @edwebnet.