Autism is a condition that is often misunderstood and make it difficult to deal with. With life becoming more and busier, it becomes so much more difficult for a parent or guardian to notice that their child is autistic.
Obviously, there are courses for Autism Awareness, but if you’re not aware of the need, this can be difficult. Phones and gadgets seem to take up a lot of our time nowadays, but what if this much relied on technology became something that could help with the journey of helping autistic children become more independent and work on some or all the difficulties that they experience therefore enhancing their strengths? There are several ways in which information technology (IT) can be used for children with autism including but not limited to; teaching them new skills, helping them initiate and improve interaction with other people, motivating them amongst many others.
Introducing IT To Autistic Children
Introducing and navigating through the world of IT is daunting especially for autistic children and their parents or guardians. This is because a lot of times the process is overshadowed by worries about how a child may react to the disruption or the worry that a child could eventually become addicted to the IT gadgets.
Nevertheless, research has shown that IT can directly help with common autistic challenges especially if the said technology has been introduced to directly address the precise needs of an autistic child. When introducing IT to children with autism, it is crucial that the introduction is done gradually and that a child’s experience is monitored keenly for any changes.
As part of introducing IT to autistic children, it is crucial that the hardware and software intended for the child’s betterment are carefully selected so that they address the needs of the child and do not cause further damage. It is important that they are equipped with something that they can use effortlessly and will not cause them and frustrations.
Finally, it is important that the parent or guardian manages the child’s screen time to ensure that the child does not develop any obsessive behaviours that may limit their development and defeat the purpose of introducing them to IT.
Benefits Of IT For Children With Autism
As previously mentioned, IT has been known to have wonderful benefits for autistic children. Some of these benefits include:
The ability to communicate: IT is a great way for children with autism to communicate. Because there are several types of autism, you will find that kids vary and some children with autism may use visual schedules, others use social cues to communicate and express themselves. Thanks to advances in IT, there are numerous applications that can be used to support children with different levels and types of autism.
Rather than carrying around velcroed laminated symbols, a child can use the many different apps to create digital symbols, stories and schedules that they can use to express themselves when necessary. Decision making is a key part of communication and IT plays a crucial role for children with autism to be able to make decisions and express themselves accordingly. For example, if you are dealing with an autistic child, and you went to a MacDonald’s to order food, you can empower the child to decide by letting them pick what they want to eat straight from the screens at MacDonald’s. Not only are you teaching them how to communicate but you are also helping them make decisions that involve them.
Growing a child’s ability to interact and socialize: information technology can develop an autistic child’s abilities to interact with other kids and adults as well. Even though a lot of people consider IT gadgets to be anti-social, for autistic children it can be a learning and communication tool where they can get to communicate with other individuals online and learn from them.
From these interactions, they can share or even show what they have learned. Being in a space where an autistic child can show what they have learned helps them build on their confidence as they grow and start becoming independent. Part of growing an autistic’s child ability to interact and socialize is by developing and teaching them new skills.
With IT, it is possible to develop a child’s skill through video modelling where they learn new skills by watching another person complete the same tasks that they are meant to undertake. Through video modelling, autistic children can learn things such as how to be hygienic amongst others.
Relaxation and leisure: Autistic children often struggle with obsessive behaviours and social interactions. By introducing IT to a child, a child may respond to having information presented to them in a way that is new and foreign for them. Sharing such experiences with an autistic child is a great way to develop and strengthen the parent/ child relationship that individuals often struggle with when raising an autistic child.
IT as a motivational tool: IT gadgets or applications can be used as a motivational tool for autistic children when they perform well or engage in positive behaviour/ activities. rewarding your autistic child encourages positive behaviour because the desired reward aids the autistic child with overcoming their anxiety since instead of concentrating on the task/ process they must undergo; they are now able to concentrate on the outcome/prize.
Behavioural therapists, however, recommend that rewarding for autistic children is done cautiously because instead of resulting in a positive outcome, rewarding can create a problem as the child becomes accustomed to getting rewards and it becomes a problem if they are not rewarded.
IT for children with autism can greatly aid with the developmental journey of the said children if it is managed appropriately However it has to be used with a lot of caution because instead of bringing about progress to an autistic child it can create more problems further to the detriment of the child. The number of assistive technologies available in the market that claim to be helpful for autistic children is quite a few.
As a guardian/ parent, it is extremely important that before introducing any new technologies to an autistic child, you must try out the said technology and monitor its use to ensure that it is not harmful to the child. Because information technology is ever-changing and growing, the likelihood of that it can help children with autism is extremely high and as such, it should be embraced.