Apps and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Jasmine, daughter of Henry and Susanne Williams, was born 13 weeks premature in 2008. She has autism spectrum disorder, has never spoken, but still attends her local junior school. Jasmine is well-integrated in her school life, including studies and extra-curricular activities. But it’s the “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” apps that she is really hooked on to. Jasmine runs these two apps on her iPad and that’s what makes a big difference to her learning.

Both the apps serve two purposes. One, they impart learning through doing; and two, they help in developing communication among children with autism spectrum disorder.

Paula Greene, Jasmine’s special support assistant and personal instructor, says that the “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” apps have replaced less hi-tech communication tools, like books with stick-on pictures of various objects. These apps are regularly updated with new features that ease frustrations of autistic children. The apps have given Jasmine a voice.

Spending a day watching Jasmine and Paula work with these two apps is fascinating. All common assumptions regarding the capabilities of an autistic child are challenged the moment Jasmine starts using the apps in sophisticated ways. She is more confident with the app technology than many adults. Her father Bill has the same thing to say. Jasmine has even shown Bill some features of the iPad that he didn’t know about.

Experts who have been working with autistic children for a long time, says that if autism apps can give the kids a voice to express themselves, it’s worth the expense. They say, we need to see it in the same way like giving a wheelchair to a person who can’t walk.

People are preferring autism apps to other learning aids for special needs children. The apps are beginning to have a big impact on such kids. What more, “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” apps can be customized to suit each student’s needs. But one has to start with specific requirements of the learner. The level of autism varies among those affected. It’s necessary to gauge the extent before the apps are handed over to the child.

Children on the autism spectrum are increasingly turning their tabs and smart phones to tools for assistive tech.

Paula says that the popularity of “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” apps among children on the autism spectrum have been remarkable. It gives them more options to express themselves and more ways to connect with the rest of the world. Contrary to the popular belief that tabs and smart phones are having a negative impact on kids, the truth is, these gadgets have opened up a whole new world to children with autism spectrum disorder.

Not only are the apps a new form of technology that helps enhance and streamline communication among children with autism, they are also helping reduce the stigma that often follow the use of assistive tech. Paula says, many special needs children were reluctant to use apps like “What’s the Expression” and “All Sorts!” in the past. But parents are now more than willing to allow the use of these apps.

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