Marygrove Blog

Marygrove Blog

Hands-On Curriculum Embraces Touch-Screens and Software for Autism

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke

Thu, Jun 07, 2012 @ 04:38 PM

It is commonly known that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) respond enthusiastically to technology-infused classrooms. But what often stands between these children and effective computer-based, hands-on curriculum is clunky hardware. Although most of us use these navigational tools with relative ease, a keyboard or a mouse could literally mean the difference between a breakthrough and further isolation.

Constructing the World Though Touch

Think about it: ToStudent works with touch-screen tabletuch is a fundamental human activity. Touch helps us process. It helps us construct our perception of the world and each other. As we attempt to make sense of new things, we often use our hands first. Tools are useful, of course, but they also complicate and defer the intimacy of this activity. Using a keyboard or a mouse means you have to make a connection between the plastic object on the desk and the icon on the screen. This is something that can prove incredibly difficult for children with ASD.

Autism Speaks with Touch Screens

Thanks to burgeoning hands-on technology (tablets, touch screens, autism apps and other software for autism) these same students are beginning to use touch to untangle the complexity of social interactions and establish relationships with their peers—some of them for the first time.

Technology is useful, but what is more important, according to Juan Pablo Hourcade, a professor and computer science expert at the University of Iowa, is how you use it. Although the Internet is brimming with thousands of apps and software for children with autism, it can be daunting to know where to begin. It is also worth considering that nearly anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of software design can sell their wares—but it takes someone with a specialized expertise to design software that helps children with ASD become social instead of more isolated.

Free Software for Autism

To help those interested in special education technology practice, Hourcade and his team have made their software, which includes several social games children can play on a Dell or HP tablet, completely free for download!

At Marygrove College, we provide educators, teachers, professionals and administrators with the knowledge and practical ability to keep up with an ever expanding array of technology resources. Technology is rapidly changing—we want to help you stay current. If you are interested in successfully integrating educational technology into your school or classroom, learn more about Marygrove College’s online Master of Education in Educational Technology program!

Photo courtesy of mitikusa: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mitikusa/

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Topics: hands-on curriculum, autism, technology in the classroom, educational technology