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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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Assistive Technology


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icon_child1.gifMany children with autism spectrum disorders require the use of assistive technology to help them learn at home, in the community, and in school.  The term “technology” does not simply relate to things like computers, TV, video, or cameras.  In fact, these materials are considered to be “high technology” compared to items which are “mid technology” such as overhead projectors, calculators, and CD players.  There are also “low technology” items which are probably used the most for this population.  This would include things like picture schedules, picture communication, highlighters, dry erase boards, and many of the other visual supports that are needed to help the child learn.2002-2-March.jpg

If you are interested in learning more about assistive technology, I found an excellent summary by Susan Stokes which was written under a contract with CESA 7 and funded by a discretionary grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

itechcenter1.jpgThere are many organizations which deal with assistive technology (AT) and aim to help families better understand their options and to choose the appropriate AT for their child.  One such organization is Parents Helping Parents who offers an iTECH Center with hands-on experience with different types of AT and provides training sessions to help families use the AT.  I will be doing a parent information night on October 25th to teach families in the San Francisco bay area more about the TeachTown: Basics program.  If you are interested in attending, spaces are still available.

There are also several conferences each year which host thousands of at050_360_Jupiter_Classroom.jpgtendees including parents, teachers, speech pathologists, behavioral consultants, and schools staff to provide more information about assistive technology.  One such conference is the Closing the Gap Conference at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 19-2, 2006 with pre-conference workshops October 17-18.  In addition to the many other valuable exhibits and presentations, TeachTown will host an exhibit booth there with demonstrations and information about our products and research.

In January, 2007, another big assistive technology conference will take place in Orlando, Florida.  This conference is sponsored by the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) and will occur at the Caribe Royale Resort on January 24-27.  TeachTown will be hosting an exhibit booth and will provide a hands-on training workshop for TeachTown: Basics.

phase1j.jpgIf you are interested in picture communication specifically, Pyramid Educational Consultants provides some of the best training.  This program uses the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and workshops are available all over the country. 

Virtual Touchscreen


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Mom and son.jpgHelping a young child, or a child with motor-skill issues use the computer may not require the purchase of an expensive touch-screen monitor.

TeachTown has been undergoing field testing at the San Diego Unified School District for about 6 months. About a dozen of their “mentor” teachers are using TeachTown: Basics in their classrooms.
The teachers there told us about a simple but clever method of helping out a child who does not know how to use the mouse. It requires that the teacher or parent sit with the child (which is typical when working with a young child or a child that has OT issues.) Essentially, you can let the child touch the screen of a regular monitor. The facilitator (teacher or parent) moves the mouse to the position where the child touched and clicks the mouse. [You can of course use this method with any other software or interactive web-site.]
Once your child gets used to the contingent reinforcement of interacting with the computer, you can eventually work on transitioning them to a mouse or other assistive technology device. I also found a good website that sells computers and mice for little kids: http://www.kid-computers.com/. If anyone tries out one of these mice for younger kids, please feel free to send me a review of your experiences!

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