Friday, October 5, 2012

Opening Worlds With Technology

My name is Rebecca Penina Simon and I am a mother of a 13 year old boy with high functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since birth, my son has been developmentally delayed in all areas of functioning. His normal behaviors included frequent meltdowns, echolalia, flapping hands, and “stimming,” or fixation of certain objects. Various therapies soon became the norm yet despite all of these my son always gravitated most towards playing educational games on our computer. Until recently, I could not comprehend why. To understand this, one has to consider the behaviors of a child with autism.

Children with ASD experience anxiety which can cause them to act out and misbehave. Children with ASD thrive on predictability -- routine is their best friend. In fact, going through simple motions, such as lining up a series of toy cars, again and again is a part of their daily lives. To peers and adults, these repetitive behaviors appear bizarre. For children with ASD, the ability to predict what comes next in a sequence of events affords them a sense of security and confidence. When playing an educational game on the computer, the structure and sequence of the game are always the same, thereby enabling kids like my son to be more confident in what they are doing.

Children with ASD tend to be visual learners too and they can benefit substantially from visual supports. Assistive Technology of AT devices afford them the chance to learn in a visual way. Through technology, I use many visual supports when trying to teach my son language and comprehension included using the computer to design cue cards with pictures . In addition, children with ASD often have challenges with sensory integration and they often find sudden loud noises and lights unpleasant. When using an AT or technology device, it is important to control the level of noise and brightness to meet the needs of the child.

Children with ASD often have obsessive or narrow minded interests. As parents, we can use these interests as motivators for our children. For example, my son enjoys reading comics. One of our goals for him is fostering age appropriate social skills. So, I have found a digital comic book that enables me to spend quality time with my son and, at the same time, to strengthen his social skills through our discussions about the book’s characters. I find that we can accomplish so much more when we utilize tools and resources that appeal naturally to our children.

Technology, such as digital books, opens worlds for our children. The predictability, visual cues and feedback, and access to information that appeals to children with ASD are easily accessible through today’s technology. Parents should be open to all the ways it can be used to open new worlds.

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