Technology & ASD

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Referring to teaching students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I was inspired to write this post by a question asked during #pstchat tonight on Twitter.

Q7. Does technology provide tools that help students with ASD? #PSTchat
17/06/2014 8:28 pm

Yes, it does. But it’s not the be all and end all.

One of my students ‘hates’ writing. I suggested that he could use the iPad to record his thoughts, plan, draft etc. No, he didn’t want to because “Nobody else is.”

Some children with ASD like to be the centre of attention, or don’t realise that they are being treated any differently. Others are very switched on and are agitated by the fact that they are ‘different’. When using technology with ASD students, there needs to be a clear purpose. 

I have used iPads as a reward for a student who could do 20 minutes of solid work. It had a clear purpose – to motivate the student to achieve as well as give his brain a break and clear his head in the 10 minutes of iPad time.  Clearing his head was a positive strategy in order for him to consume the next set of instructions.

For non-verbal ASD students, the app “Tap To Talk” can be helpful for constructing a line of communication. Other communication tools like voice recorders can provide relief for those hard-to-handle moments when things are hard to understand!

I have used apps like ‘Strip Design‘ and ‘Comics Head‘ for ASD students to help construct social stories, using speech marks and photos of themselves. The power of having a photo of themselves is fantastic and gives a lot more meaning to the activity.

In instances where ASD students may ‘need’ to do some writing, or produce literacy content, apps like Educreations, Explain Everything or 30 Hands can offer them the opportunity to record their voice, annotate photos and complete the task successfully.

Even a the simple timer or stopwatch in the ‘Clock’ app on your iPad can prove to be a useful device for students with ASD. It shows elapsed time for a set timeframe, so it is visual for them to see, but can also emit a sound to signal the end of the activity.

Sitting an ASD student in the corner with an iPad while you teach everybody else an entirely different concept is rarely productive and isn’t a feature of an inclusive classroom. ASD students need to be interacted with, listened to and appreciated within a classroom. Celebrate their successes!

Many of these suggestions are suitable for all students, not just those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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