Within the last fifty years, children with special needs have gained enormous grounds with civil rights and general knowledge and understanding in the public eye. What’s more, autism has not only become more easily recognized and diagnosed but technology has grown to the point where adaptive and assistive devices break through the autism barrier to make real connections. While some of these devices are more common place, some are more adaptive to the skill level of the individual child.
Most commonly used now is an iPad or touch screen tablet, enclosed in a extreme behavior-proof case. Because behavior analysts that treat many children have recognized that a child with autism readily connects to a screen more than to other human beings, and that they actually learn more and can better communicate with those in their daily surroundings, tablet computers are frequently used. Children with autism don’t have to make eye contact with a tablet, but there are several apps on these tablets that these children can use and learn to “speak” to others (if they are generally non-verbal). The top two teaching and communication apps for these devices are Proloquil and Autism Speaks 2. These types of assistive technology devices for children with autism get them to interact, make choices, respond, and tell parents and others who work with them in therapy what they want, need, think, and maybe even feel.
Additionally, anyone familiar with Stephen Hawking has seen assistive technology devices for children with special needs. Sometimes the hardest part for parents is trying to figure out if there is a thinking soul trapped within the body of their child with severe CP or if they have mental retardation. In regards to Stephen Hawking, he uses adaptive devices that many of these children use as well; wheelchairs that move with a puff of air from their mouths and computers that type with eye movements. While the majority of children with autism disorders are generally able to get around on their own, the computers that type by tracking eye movements are currently being used in some public school settings.
Children on the spectrum who are sensitive to the sounds in their surroundings may also encounter other assistive devices. These particular assistive technology devices for children with autism may include noise cancelling headphones or headphones that at first may cancel noise and then the therapist may gradually expose the child to a little more noise at a time until the child is no longer bothered by what they hear without the headphones. Similar therapies can be applied with light, touch, and taste/oral therapy. (For instance, some children with autism are compelled to chew or have an oral “fixation”. Electric assistive devices in this case might help. They are a lot like a sonic toothbrush; very quiet but they vibrate to to provide stimulation where the child wants it most).
Many other assistive devices are available; checking with your child’s therapist or special needs teacher will help you get started. Federal, state and local government allows financial assistance for families with autistic children.