Technology on the Spectrum: Where Are We? Where Can We Go?

Posted by: in Healthcare Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thinking Creatively on November 5, 2010

First off, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, so sorry for that.

Lately I’ve been thinking… should I write a snarky post about 2010 social media predictions that haven’t come through?  Maybe a post about the potential impact of mid-term elections on the likelihood of FDA guidance on social media anytime soon?  Whatever happened to Augmented Reality?

I pushed that noise aside and realized that what I really wanted to write about was the utilization and integration of technology for those on the Autism Spectrum – including those with Asperger’s Syndrome.

You may have seen that I wrote about this last February (well, at least I hope you did) as I started to connect the dots between my work and life.  As noted then, my son was diagnosed in 2009 with Asperger’s Syndrome.  What I’ve come to appreciate more and more since then: I think he gravitates towards technology.   He loves to use and explore computers and mobile devices and adapts quickly.  He now has his own Nano and Shuffle.  Given my own interest in technology, I see this as a great way to connect with him.

Recently, I think we came across a real breakthrough.  After struggling through a writing assignment (the physical act of writing may be challenging for someone on the spectrum) and later discussing this with my son’s teacher, we learned that the school has Fusion portable word processors that he’d be able to use for some assignments.  My son took to this quickly and wrote (typed) a wonderful story about owls last week.  His reaction and willingness to complete the assignment was completely different.  How cool is that?  Granted, he’s not in “hands on home keys” mode, but I noticed the other day that his typing was faster than a week ago.

Ok, so enough about me and mine.  The point is I strongly believe that technology has an important role in helping kids on the spectrum.  Heck, when I wrote about this in February, the iPad had just been announced — now there are even more great apps out there to help these kids. 

I had previously mentioned a free Model Me Kids app, but this time wanted to point out this video.  There are some great visuals in here – and it’s so cool to see this little guy exploring the iPad.  The video (made by his mom) shows a few of the apps they recommend and they’ve got other reviews here.  

As I said before, I often see how “normal” social interactions can be a challenge for my son.  But I also see how technology/ online social tools allow people to connect in a way that maybe less threatening.   

What are your thoughts?  What technologies do you think are untapped for those on the spectrum?  Or, how are you/would you use social media to help people with Asperger’s (and their caregivers)?

By: Mark Bennett

Group Director

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2 Responses

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  1. Mark,
    You’re doing a great job letting your intuition guide you with your son.

    My wife works with students with disabilities at the high school level and I’m very interested in how empowering these students with digital and social technologies can help them socially, academically, and to develop the skills it takes to move beyond high school (college, workforce, vocational school, etc).

    What I find appalling is the push back from districts and schools on tools like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Instead of limiting access because of what can go wrong, they should be embracing these tools (and, ((whoa)), even leading the market to build new ones that would help adapt learning environments for different student needs. There is so much potential here, but it needs a champion (and tolerance from school leaders).

  2. Ryan,

    Thanks for your comments, much appreciated.

    The push backs you describe are frustrating, to be sure, and change is surely needed. Interestingly, they’re not just limited to education – the same barriers are seen across many large organizations.

    My hope, going forward, is that we see more utilization, leadership – and, as you say, tolerance, for such tools – both in education (for all students!) and across industry.

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