Mobile Tech Opens the World For Children With Autism

Over the years, Terri Pardee, LPC and professor of psychology at Spring Arbor University, has seen the world widen for children with autism because of tablets, PCs and mobile technology.

Spring Arbor University (SAU) is a Christian University for all, and that includes education and activities for those with high functioning autism. Pardee said mobile technology is a regular tool today for youth on either end of the autism spectrum. The benefits of it, she said, are highly impactful for both and helps individuals develop their careers and live independently.

Programs at the university include course work to teach the general student population how to work better and communicate with individuals with autism. Everyone in his or her lifetime, at some point, may connect with an individual with autism at work, home or school.

Mobile technology has helped educators realize that children with autism are capable of so much more than originally thought. For example, a teenage girl with autism was diagnosed with an IQ of 30, so the goals that her parents and educators set for her were low, Pardee said. However, because mobile technology actually helped her ability to communicate, educators learned her IQ was actually 130.

Autistic individuals have difficulty communicating and can also lack an innate understanding of human nonverbal cues that are necessary to build relationships or deal with social situations. This causes a very closed, quiet, lonely and frustrating world for the children and their loved ones.

“Language (being unable to speak) is not a cognitive deficiency; it doesn’t impact IQs,” Pardee said. “So for years we have dummied down individuals with autism because many have been unable to express themselves.”

Twenty years ago, children with autism would have to point to a picture to communicate – limiting their ability to show their intelligence and develop their skills to live more fulfilling lives.

Enter technology with tablets and mobile phones!

“There are programs and apps such as Proloquo2Go that have literally changed lives,” Pardee said.

Higher functioning individuals with autism have improved their independence through programs available on Autism Speaks. There are hundreds of apps reviewed by parents, counselors and educators on the site.

See.Touch.Learn is a widely popular visual learning and assessment application designed for use with the iPad. It helps the user develop crucial life skills, and includes interactivity.

Pardee, who teaches her students about available apps, said scheduling apps help children move easily from daily task to daily task, rather than getting stuck on just one thing, such as brushing their teeth. StoryMaker For Social Stories is an all ages tool to improve communication with pictures, text and audio.

Mobile technology is not just about convenience - it’s about enhancing lives. Pardee said mobile technology has the potential to “increase a wide skill set” for autistic individuals when it is used in addition to effective/healthy interpersonal interactions, not just as a replacement for them. For children with autism, their path to success is brighter and more engaging because of it.

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