By Teachers, For Teachers
With technology becoming more important and useful every day, a variety of education software aimed at children with autism is now available. Many general educational software titles can also be tailored for autistic children. Because sensory output from a computer can easily be adjusted (i.e., volume can be turned higher and lower, the screen can be brightened or darkened, etc.), autistic individuals usually find this type of technology easy to use when other techniques may fail. Introduce your child to the following software to help them in their education.
For young children, programs that focus on sounds are successfully used for many autistic children. These programs teach phonics through songs and games. Some of the most highly acclaimed software programs include the following:
• Sound Beginnings (1 and 2) – can be made voice-specific for every child and includes a headset so the child can “talk back” to the computer
• Speaking for Myself – includes many graphics with words and sounds and also has options teaching Rebus and Makaton signs with videos
• Musical Leaps and Bounds – teaches language nonverbally with the use of music
Other programs for this pre-school age range help children begin to learn skills such as the alphabet, counting and simple math, and spatial relationships. Check out titles such as Kidspiration, Jemima, Touch It, and Thinkin' Things 1.
As a child grows and matures, introduce more age-appropriate software into their learning routine. Elementary school age autistic children benefit greatly from the program Fun with Feelings, software which uses video and visuals to identify emotions. Problem Solvers is another wonderful title for children in elementary school. It was designed by a parent of an autistic child, so is specifically targeted for this learning disorder. Problem Solvers engages a child in the W-questions (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) and works on auditory processing, comprehension, and conversation skills. Other age-appropriate titles you may wish to consider for elementary school aged autistic child include:
• School Routines and Rules – teaches with visuals skills a child needs to learn to interact in schools
• All About Ourselves – helps autistic child work on verbal and visual skills while learning about the body
• Choices, Choices – includes many situations to encourage autistic children to develop social skills and awareness
A number of computer programs are available for older children as well. As a child matures, he or she may benefit more greatly from using the same computer software that typical students use, but some special programs are still useful to help these children with especially important skills, such as socialization and verbal communication. At this stage, it truly depends on the child’s abilities, but medium- to highly-functional autistic students in middle school and high school have had success with the following programs:
• Crystal Rain Forest 2000 – helps develop math and simple programming skills for the many autistic children who enjoy computer design and programming
• My Community – best if first introduced at a younger age, but relevant for students up to the age of 15 to learn social interaction skills
• GrammarTrainer 2 – specially designed to help children with learning disabilities learn to construct sentences and understand the parts of speech
Remember that there are many products on the market for autistic children to use with a computer. In this age, where computers are very important in our everyday lives, learning to use technology is a crucial skill for all children. By introducing these programs and others to autistic children, they can become computer savvy while learning other skills as well.