Research is showing that tablets may be a help for teens with autism. Autistic teens can benefit from visual technology, which includes tablets and phones. This is because visual technology gives autistic teens an opportunity to make independent choices.
Kara Hume, who is a researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has stated that teaching independence should be the focus when it comes to high school aged individuals with autism. Independence plays a role in how well the teen will do after school. Teens with autism are not as likely to make independent choices as teens who do not have autism.
Hume says that this is because teens with autism do not observe their peers and pick up on skills that are necessary to establish independence. For example, Hume explains that when an autistic teen is using a pen that runs out of ink, instead of getting a new pen, he or she is likely to wait until prompted by the teacher. This is not making an independent choice, but rather being prompted to do something.
The benefit of visual technology is that it allows teens to make independent choices. When using a tablet there are no verbal prompts to make a choice, this may help teens with autism develop independence. Another benefit of visual technology is that it can help to reduce the stigma teens with autism face because the use of a tablet or phone increases social acceptability.
In addition, teens with autism are typically drawn to technology. This is being recognized by some schools who are choosing to alter the way they perform assessments of teens with autism. Because children with autism do not typically do well with traditional paper and pencil assessments, some schools are now opting to use visual technology for assessing these individuals. By using things such as tablets, educators can get a better grasp of capabilities.
Toby Price, who is an assistant principal at Richland Upper Elementary School and has two children with autism, has seen exactly how visual technology can allow one to better understand the capabilities of teens and children with autism. His son was six-years-old and non-verbal when he was introduced to an iPad for the first time. Price said that within minutes he was decorating cakes on an app and had decorated four cakes according to the four different seasons. Price discussed that this was a great thing for him to see because he was not even aware that his son knew what the different seasons were. A pencil and paper assessment would not have shown him this.
This may come as a relief and great news to some parents who are feeling guilt over how much time their child spends with visual technology. There is much being said about technology being destructive for children. Pediatric occupational therapist Cris Rowan has said that modern technology, including smartphones and tablets, should be banned for children under 12. Many parents feel the pressure to keep technology away from their children, but that may no longer be the case.
The principle behind how tablets may help teens with autism through visual technology can be used in other areas of the home and work life. Hume suggests creating a visual schedule because it will allow the teen to be independent without the need for voice prompts. She also adds that video modeling may be a useful way for teens to learn other skills.
By Ashley Campbell