Autism and Assistive Technology

Tiimo app

Technology really is amazing and provides us with so many support avenues. In this post I want to explore some assistive technology we are using. Assistive technology is defined as technology that is used by individuals with a disability to perform functions that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Examples might be wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs or hearing aids.

For me assistive technology encompasses so much.  An example could even be me using google images on my phone to show my non-verbal son where we are going next as a visual aid because he is unable to understand by me telling him verbally.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

One of the main assistive technologies that is associated with autism is augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This refers to any method of communication used instead or in addition to speech.  Low tech versions would be The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that we use or Makaton. However there are many high tech AAC systems for example speech generating computer devices.

AAC
Otsimo AAC

Sensational Learning with Penguin recently wrote a good introductory post on augmentative and alternative communication. There is also a handy guide available on ACC Tips, Tricks and Tools.

However communication is not where assistive technology ends in relation to autism. Today there are companies such as Industrial Vision Systems manufacturing machine vision and artificial intelligence products opening up all sorts of possibilities for the future.

Assistive visuals

With a non-verbal son I am very mindful of the importance of visual aids throughout the day.  One simple but impactful visual support we use is the Tiimo visual calendar app.  Tiimo is able to support my son throughout the day in following a visual timetable on my phone and tablet.  The app is able to remind us what is happening and what else we have planned for our day /week.  This is particularly useful when following a routine such as bedtime and to aide with transitions or changes throughout the day.

Tiimo review
Tiimo app on Smartwatch

One thing that Tiimo also does is normalise assistive technology. An app that can be used on a smart phone or watch is very easy to integrate into daily life.  It is ideal for individuals who struggle with executive functioning and need visual supports throughout the day.

Visual learning

Another way technology is assisting us is visual learning apps, there are many apps designed to aide learning for children.  Where these are particularly useful is in the support of visual learners. If pictures are your first language then learning with pictures will be far more productive.

If a student is visually orientated then it makes sense to present materials visually. This could be through an interactive white board, smartphones and tablets. Technology is far more predictable than human interactions and as such more appealing to people that struggle with social communication.  As such technology can provide a safe environment for learning that provides confidence for learners that struggle with more traditional learning methods.

I can comfortably say my children have learnt the alphabet and spelling from apps rather than me and they enjoyed doing it this way. One such app that we use is Otsimo which is designed specifically for autistic users.

Artificial Intelligence

There are many different examples of artificial intelligence being designed / used to support autistic children.  Over the past couple of months we have been working with a QT Robot from LuxAI.  I have to say my kids are far more motivated to sit and do some work with a robot than me.  Using the robot too show different emotions is a particular benefit, the robot can help the user to learn about social interaction and emotions without any pressure.  It is also great for speech therapy and language comprehension.

I am always keen to explore new ways to support my kids and I have consistently found assistive technology very useful. Technological aids tend to be simple to use but with significant impact so I am a fan.

What assistive technology have you come across and does it work for you?

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13 Comments

  1. Malin - Sensational Learning with Penguin
    24th November 2020 / 1:38 am

    Another really interesting post, thank you! Also, and extra big thanks for linking to my recent post about AAC! xx

    • admin
      Author
      24th November 2020 / 7:04 am

      Your welcome to it is a very helpful post.

  2. 5th December 2020 / 10:51 pm

    Interesting. There’s so much out there now to help #KCACOLS

  3. 6th December 2020 / 9:04 am

    Gosh technology is just so incredible these days! #KCACOLS

  4. 6th December 2020 / 4:08 pm

    Very interesting! #KCACOLS

  5. 7th December 2020 / 9:14 am

    It’s so amazing what technology can do these days. It makes you wonder how we coped without it. #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      7th December 2020 / 9:34 am

      I know it really is amazing don’t know if I could have coped pre-tech as a mum!

  6. 10th December 2020 / 12:30 am

    Fantastic that there is so much emphasis finally being placed on providing help to those that need it. Thanks for the knowledge. #KCACOLS

  7. Shelley Whittaker
    10th December 2020 / 10:49 am

    How great is the robot? It is really impressive what technology is available these days #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      10th December 2020 / 11:28 am

      He is fab isn’t he x

  8. Malin - Sensational Learning with Penguin
    17th December 2020 / 12:44 pm

    Thanks again for this useful post! Popping back from #KCACOLS

  9. 9th January 2021 / 11:29 am

    AI is amazing isn’t it – Misery Guts is type 1 diabetic & almost all his medicine can be controlled via a Smartwatch now – amazing! #KCACOLS

    • admin
      Author
      9th January 2021 / 11:42 am

      So great that technology can do this now. I am looking forward to when my son can use a smartwatch himself.

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