Autism and Technology
Advances in technology bring both advantages and challenges, many of which have changed the way we live on a daily basis. I often read debates about whether technology should be embraced, or whether it should be restricted. This week I am going to look at ways in which autism and technology can work well together to be used positively to support people in their day to day living.
“Some view technology as a great evil that slowly diminishes our humanity, while others view it as a way to bring the world closer together and to help solve some of our greatest challenges (Forbes)
Little did I know when I played Snake on my Nokia 3210 many years ago, that in my 30s I would be able to walk around with a palm sized phone which could connect me with pretty much anything or anyone in the world. It has forever changed the way in which we communicate, but the feedback I have received from many people on the autism spectrum is that the mobile phone has had a really positive impact on their life.
“My phone allows me to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the world and helps me “zone out” when I’m feeling overloaded”
“I use my phone to help structure my day, and when I look at it people don’t know what I am looking. I can use timers to remind me when I need to do things”
In many workplaces there are now policies about the use of mobile phones, but for me they need to be embraced. For someone who finds face-to-face communication a challenge, why can’t a WhatsApp message be sent instead? Why in restaurants do we need to speak to people to order food? McDonalds have introduced different systems, and for some people this will allow them to order their food with far less barriers. At the Autism Show last week I saw software which allowed the same message to be communicated in a variety of ways – text, images, symbols, eye movements. Different methods will work for different people, but technology can be personalised to its user, which is why I believe autism and technology are a perfect match.
During my time working in schools, for me technology was a game-changer on many different levels. On many schools trips we spent time developing skills using Google Maps to allow us to find our way back to meeting points. Apps for planning out daily routines were a great way to allow people to structure their day (where it was beneficial to them) and could be used discretely for some young people who felt self-conscious about getting a timetable out to look at. Personalised resources could be prepared for students and sent directly to their own iPad/device; no-one else in the class needed to know what the others were doing.
There are so many different types of technology which I could look at, but I think my overall point is that, in my opinion, autism and technology go hand in hand. It can be a hugely powerful tool to support people on a day-to-day basis; especially within a workplace.
From my experience the majority of people with autism do not want charity, they want opportunity. Work with us to help a create a spectrum of opportunities which will benefit all of those involved. To find out more about how autism and technology can work together or to see how we can work with you, contact us: Thomas@track.org.uk