Utilizing Mobile Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism — also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — refers to a set of conditions that are associated with social skills, repetitive behavior, speech, as well as nonverbal communication. Those who are diagnosed with ASD tend to struggle with core issues such as communication, literacy, academics, social skills, and emotional recognition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data and statistics on ASD as of 2020, approximately 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD. The article also highlights that boys are four times as likely to be diagnosed with ASD over girls. There are common misconceptions associated with ASD that warrant mention — these include:
- All individuals with ASD have the same strengths and difficulties;
- Individuals with ASD have a distinguished skill or strength;
- Individuals with ASD do not suffer other disorders or conditions;
- All individuals with ASD have an intellectual disability;
- Children with ASD are unable to speak;
- ASD in children is more aggressive than in other age groups;
- Children with ASD have a temper, or are more aggressive;
- Individuals with ASD do not experience the full spectrum of emotions;
- Individuals with ASD cannot build strong, affectionate relationships;
- Individuals with ASD prefer to be alone;
- There is an ASD epidemic;
- ASD is caused by the way that parents choose to raise their kids;
- ASD is caused by vaccinations;
- ASD can be outgrown.
Being aware of the various myths can help individuals understand that each diagnosis of ASD is different and individualistic. The way that one individual with ASD struggles can be entirely different than another individual with ASD. While communication, learning routines, and emotional regulation might be hard for the majority of individuals with ASD, technology has provided many solutions to these problems. This article will help identify the various technologies that are readily available to help children with ASD in a variety of realms.
How Does Technology Help Autism?
Using mobile technology for children with autism spectrum disorder has a variety of benefits from core issues faced by children with ASD to other functional life skills. Using a tablet, laptop, or another mobile device for learning on-the-go can help connect the dots where traditional learning may lack. You will also want to ensure that your child's mobile phone — or other mobile devices — has adequate accessibility support for their individual needs. The primary ways that technology helps children with autism are as follows:
The broad ways that technology helps children with autism can be broken down into smaller, focused tasks that make up the primary benefits above.
Communication and Autism
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), children with ASD often have limited abilities with communication and interactions with others. These issues consist of language development skills, comprehending what others are saying to them, and understanding nonverbal communication. Communicative abilities vary from person to person, so some may excel in areas where others may struggle. According to the same study, below are common language behaviors for children with ASD:
Technology can help mitigate communication boundaries in three primary ways: augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), non-verbal communication assistance, and mobile devices such as a speech-generating device (SGD). AAC can be used for communicating with people the child with ASD is unfamiliar with, in school, work, as well as for everyday communication. There are two types of AAC:
Using mobile devices as an SGD can help individuals who have severe speech impairment to alleviate functional speaking struggles. SGDs feature robust language systems, flexible software, durable construction, large screens, and alternative accessibility options.
Routines and Schedules
Creating a routine and schedule is crucial for children with autism. Routine and structure help create predictability. Creating normalcy can help alleviate the anxiety that is common in children with ASD. By creating this structure, children with ASD can start to become more and more autonomous. Creating an effective routine and schedule can help promote the effectiveness of other mobile technology as well. Visual schedules on mobile technology are great tools to help children, parents, and educators stay in the loop by completing tasks and managing time, homework, chores, and meals in an independent way.
Learning Social Skills
Learning social skills can be very difficult for children with ASD. Parents or guardians are not always available to communicate in all situations, so introducing (and improving) social skills and cues are vital for autonomy. Common social skills that children with ASD struggle with include:
Technology is designed to help improve verbal and non-verbal communication, analytical and inferential skills, sensory perception, and grasping context. Most parents will look into the best wireless plans for kids that allow parental monitoring to ensure the proper use of their technology. This technology typically involves the following:
Emotional Regulation for Autism
Most individuals start developing emotions and understanding expressions starting around birth. Children with ASD oftentimes struggle emotionally with the following:
Technology can be used to visually bolster emotional regulation through instructional activity and meditation. Observing others and contextually/situationally providing visual cues to improve emotional regulation for children with ASD can be a huge help.
Wearable Technology for Autism
Wearable tech allows for immediate access to applications for ASD. In a study of how wearable devices are helping people with autism, the researchers discovered that using a wearable device helped and brought immediate benefits for anxiety and awareness. Another study explores the efficacy of wearable tech for children with ASD and found a positive trend by using Google Glass to facilitate app-based social behavior improvement. Students in the wearable technology group scored 5 points higher on the Vineland Adaptive Behaviors Scale than those in the control group.
The future of wearable-tech may include a variety of benefits for children with autism. Potential products include: