Technology has revolutionised the way we approach education and learning. It has opened a new world of possibilities for students with special needs, including those with autism. Technology can be an invaluable tool to help students with autism gain access to educational resources and support they may not otherwise have access to. With the right tools, educators, therapists, and parents can all work together to create a customised learning environment that meets the individual needs of each student.
This article will explore how technology can be used to help students with autism succeed in school and beyond.
What is Assistive Technology for Students with Autism?
Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. When referring to assistive technology for students with autism, we are talking about specific types of technology that can be used to address the learning needs of these students. Examples include computer programs, software applications, games and toys, hardware such as switches and mounting systems, assistive listening devices, and specialised communication devices.
Examples of Assistive Technology for Students with Autism
To cater to the unique needs of each student on the autism spectrum, educators have a variety of assistive technology tools at their disposal. Some students might only need simple aids like noise-canceling headphones, while others will require more high-tech solutions.
Some students with autism, especially those who have difficulty speaking, might need more high-tech tools like speech-generating devices (SGDs). SGDs come in lots of different shapes and sizes. The most frequent type uses a tablet or computer where the student can select pictures that express the words or ideas they want to share. These assistive technology tools for autistic students are usually user-friendly and can make a significant difference in a student’s ability to communicate inside the classroom.
People with autism spectrum disorder can greatly benefit from accessibility tools like captioning, transcription, and descriptive video/audio descriptions. These resources can help in the following ways:
Captioning refers to the process of turning audio into text that appears on-screen. By adding captions to videos, you make sure everyone can enjoy your content equally–regardless of whether they’re hard of hearing or deaf.
There are many reasons why a student with ASD may wish to use closed captioning. Captioning can be a valuable assistive technology for autism in the classroom because it can support a wide range of course materials.
Captions are not only helpful for people with difficulty hearing, but they also offer another way to absorb information whether live or recorded. Captioning online and in-person lectures can help keep students with ASD interested and provide a fairer experience.
There are many benefits of transcription, one being that it creates text from speech. This process is useful for those who are hard of hearing or when ambiance noise makes captioning difficult to follow. Transcription might not appear on the screen during a video like captions, but they don’t have to be perfectly matched up with specific audio cues.
Transcripts are exact records of audio or video content that anyone can distribute both in person and online. These might help all students but especially those with ASD or others who struggle to attend courses because of varying degrees of sensory sensitivities.
When lectures or discussions occur in a class, accurate transcripts can be provided to students so that they don’t miss out on important information. Transcripts can also benefit those with ASD by allowing them to get the most out of supplementary course materials, such as educational videos or podcasts.
Verbatim provides professional transcription services that can transcribe audio to text both in real time and after the fact. With this tool, students tuning in via video conferencing platforms will receive similar experiences to those who physically attend.
Descriptive Video and Audio Description
Another excellent form of assistive technology for individuals with autism is audio/descriptive video. Depending on your location, these terms might be used interchangeably. In Canada, “audio description” refers to a system that uses voiceovers to read any text appearing onscreen and describe any visual graphics for viewers with limited vision.
In the United States, descriptive audio and video are terms used to describe an accessibility solution that employs voiceovers to give a verbal description of what is happening onscreen. This may include people’s appearances, locations, specific body language, etc.
This tool not only provides individuals who are blind or low-vision with equitable viewing experiences but also those with ASD. For example, some people 4with ASD need more help understanding body language and social cues. Audio descriptions of behaviors that videos depict can also help students follow along and improve their understanding. This solution is a particularly valuable resource for instructors who use educational videos as supporting materials for their courses.
These are just a few examples of how assistive technology for autism can be used in the classroom. With the right tools, you can ensure that all students have access to educational opportunities regardless of their learning needs or disabilities and this is something that everyone should strive for.