Technology and ASD
Today we live in an incredibly complex and ever changing world of technology. We have phones that can do more than many computers; we read books on e-devices, use wireless technology, and have the ability to control the temperature of our house from half-way around the world. We are connected in a way that mankind has never before witnessed. These advances in technology have also had a dramatic impact on the world of ASD. Just five to ten years ago, many assistive devices for the special needs community were clunky, slow, and expensive. Today, wide ranges of technological devices are available to help improve the quality of lives for individuals with ASD by helping them communicate, socialize, and function independently. However, no matter the device, finding the best fit for an individual with ASD can be complicated and may feel overwhelming to the individual with ASD and his or her family.
As the internet has expanded, the increase in the number of websites, chat groups, games, and programs has created an opportunity for individuals with ASD to better communicate, socialize, and find support and avenues for advocacy. Students may find the advances in assistive technology particularly helpful in the classroom. The use of computers, laptops, and even devices such as the Neo, improve a student's ability to participate and complete activities and projects. Just as there have been advances in phones and other devices of convenience, there are now wide ranges of devices available to help individuals with ASD function independently throughout the lifespan. In this Resources section, we have included websites, guides, videos, and research to help you navigate this ever-changing world of technology. Please also visit our Resources page on Smartphone Technology and ASD.
The Virginia Assistive Technology System, or VATS, is a statewide program designed to increase awareness and provide educational opportunities about assistive technology, as well as improve accessibility for individuals with special needs of all ages and abilities. VATS can also help with evaluation of AT devices, provide training, and find funding sources to help pay for devices.
The Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers (TTACs) Assistive Technology Project addresses priorities of VDOE with centralized coordination, implementation, and dissemination of information about the laws which define AT devices and services, the process of consideration of AT by Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, and AT assessment and resources. The project has several initiatives which include: developing resources and documents for AT considerations and assessment, supporting and training regional AT teams, sponsoring annual statewide Techknowledgy and AT & Aug Com conferences, providing display of an AT booth at statewide conferences, and integrating AT solutions across curriculum.
Closing the Gap is a website, magazine, and annual conference dedicated to the advancement of assistive technology for all users. Closing the Gap provides a wealth of information on the latest advances in AT and includes trainings and webinars on how to implement AT in the educational, rehabilitative, and vocational settings.
The AAC-RERC is a research based center focused on the development of effective assistive technology for those with disabilities. AAC-RERC has information about AT across the lifespan, from early intervention to the aging population and includes webcasts, resources, research articles, and more.
The Assistive Technology Industry Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of AT. The website includes newsletters, resources, webinars, and research and may be helpful for those looking to learn about the different types of assistive technology available.
The Pass It On Center is a national organization dedicated to recycling and reusing assistive technology devices. They have created an extensive network in order to share resources. Pass It On also provides technical assistance, educational awareness programs, and provides teleconferences and webinars.
Guides and Fact Sheets
The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative has an excellent resource on AT supports for students with ASD. The guide (February, 2009) contains sections on student information, environmental observations, decision making processes, and AT tools and strategies for the student with ASD.
Videos and Training
VCU-ACE has developed a Seminar on Communication, which includes an Introduction to Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) with Individuals with ASD.
This video from the Florida Atlantic University Assistive Technology Lab displays a wide range of general assistive technology options for students with disabilities.
Research and Article
Burton, C.E., Anderson, D.H., Prater, M.A., Dyches, T.T. (2013). Video self-modeling on an iPad to teach functional math skills to adolescents with autism and intellectual disability. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 28(2), 76-77.
Gelbar, N.W., Anderson, C., & McCarthy, S. (2011). Video self-modeling as an intervention strategy for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Psychology in the Schools, 49(1), 15-22.
Knight, V., McKissick, B.R., & Saunders, A. (2013). A review of technology-based interventions to teach academic skills to students with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 2628-2648.
Mechling, L.C. (2011). Review of twenty-first century portable electronic devices for persons with moderate intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46(4), 479-498.
Smith, B.R., Spooner, F., & Wood, C.L. (2013). Using embedded computer-assisted explicit instruction to teach science to students with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7, 433-443.