Autism Spectrum Australia

Hamburgers and tamagotchis

  • Posted: 01/05/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hi there folks, welcome back to Aspire! Every quarter at Aspect we focus on a particular topic. Last quarter was Positive Behaviour Support, this quarter is technology. Technology has helped us to go from Stone Age to Space Age. From saying cheese to Tamagotchis. We have used technology from rest and relaxation to manufacturing and supporting people with disability. Technology has also been there for those on the spectrum; from learning apps to programs that specialise in helping kids with autism to make video games, to devices that help people to communicate their wants and needs.

Technology has given us some amazing ways to communicate. From Facebook and emails, all the way to hamburger phones, technology has helped us get our message out there. Communication can be very hard for someone with autism. With the help of applications like Proloquo2Go, AutisMate, Kid in Story and Pictello, people are learning to gain a voice they had trouble with before. Before I found out about these apps I thought iPads were used for just listening to music, podcasts, reading ebooks, updating my Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, drawing, reading comics, taking photos and writing documents. Now I realise it’s used for so much more!

A Professional Opinion

As I surveyed the vast jungle that combines Technology with Aspie Behaviour I talked to Craig Smith.

“A big implication for those in the spectrum is how well they respond to visual engagement. In the classroom, we promote visual exercises for both learning and the workforce. It is such a primary characteristic of how the brain of an individual on the spectrum receives information. So, a visual tool like the iPad has great potential for engaging those on the spectrum.

“Let’s imagine a bus with passengers; their apple or android devices out. Everyone is playing with apps or reading e-books. However, someone who has autism is sitting with their iPad reading through a visual timetable that prepares them for the job they are going to. The passenger on the spectrum who uses their iPad as a tool for support with visual prompts looks the same as everyone else. We no longer need laminated social stories and communication books on the bus; today technology provides the potential for fluent social inclusion. The iPad is not just a cool gadget; it’s a tool we are teaching our children on the spectrum in schools to use. Consider the potential. Already our students are using the iPad to communicate, to write stories and film movies, and to engage in sensory and emotional regulation. Aspect's research is demonstrating the progress that is potential here - the future is very exciting.

"My current focus in supporting classroom teachers is to consider how apps can link together into a fluent workflow.  One app that is proving useful is 'ITTT' (If This, Then That). It lets you create 'recipes' between apps. Like, if it's going to rain tomorrow, have the weather app alert me via email. If we think of the need for those on the spectrum to organise their days, the potential for apps like this are very cool.As the technology evolves, becomes cheaper and is in the hands of more individuals on the spectrum, I believe that the autism community will drive the direction of where this technology will take us. As individuals on the spectrum think and decide, 'this is cool, but do you know what I really need?', then we will all learn where this technology needs to take us into the future. Check out things like iBeacon technology, Augmentative Reality, the flourishing iBooks market of user created textbooks – how far can we take this?”

My Two Cents

I’m quite confuddled on this topic. See I love my video games and I probably spend more time in front of a screen than time awake. But I’m not a complete techie, I love conversation. I like talking to others, but there is nothing I hate more than people texting and checking out Facebook when they should be paying attention to the people they are talking to. I once left a date because of that.

With all the time I have spent learning about socialising, I find it embarrassing when technology gains more attention than the people who make up our lives. Now I will admit as an aspie, if I am overwhelmed, or if everyone is discussing something I hate or have no interest in, (like country music – Dad) I will shut down and use my mobile.

As for things that I have seen help people on the spectrum, last year I was a part of a couple of projects called IT Club and The Lab. There I helped teach Aspies how to make video games. I was there as an assistant mentor and I have to say it was fantastic to see the kids smile as they created video games. Check it out and also The Secret Agents Society, I will go into those two more in another blog. 

In Conclusion

It’s interesting where technology has taken us. We are at the stage today where technology is so reliable that it has almost become an extra limb. We use all these devices for communication, organisation and entertainment. It comes with its ups and downs. With online places like tumblr your favourite show can be spoiled minutes after it has been aired in the states.

However technology does come with its benefits. As we have learnt from Craig today technology helps Aspies live their everyday life. Just look at IFTTT, I downloaded it today and I am using it like Chewbacca uses a comb. There are groups that help build the confidence of those on the spectrum by creating video games. There are apps that help Aspies learn about social cues.

So where to next? Will we see the likes of C3P0 and R2D2? Which droid do you prefer? Answer in the comments below!

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Hamburgers and tamagotchis