Right now when you look around, you’re probably surrounded by people face down in a digital device for entertainment purposes; writing a Facebook status, reading a music review blog, or maybe endlessly scrolling Amazon for products they never knew existed. While majority of people consume digital media primarily for entertainment, this same technology is helping shape a lifestyle of communication and knowledge for the autism community.
Katie Goldstein, a social worker at St. David’s Child & Family Development Center, explained how the use of digital media has opened doors for children with autism that were not even doors that were built ten years ago. Through the use of iPads, apps, and video content, these children are able to learn and communicate more effectively than ever before.
Repetition is necessary for someone with autism to start to associate the appropriate feelings to situations, and video modeling is a digital tactic used to do just that. When this lesson is taught through a YouTube video, there is no room for human error in breaking the repetition of the lesson. An example of this is Ms. Veronica. Ms. Veronica is a series of videos that explain human emotion and what the expected social emotional reaction is. After months or years of repetition, the child viewer starts to understand and respond with the correct emotion. And the best part? Any time they view that video, the lesson will be the exact same, with no room for different inflection, a different dance move, or different level of energy.
Digital technology has also greatly influenced the lives of non-verbal autistic children as well. Through the use of speech software technology, children are able to click buttons on an iPad to communicate with people around them, rather than living siloed.
Another digital medium that is has influenced the lives of those living with autism is creative software. People with autism pay very close attention to detail and, again, learn through repetition. Programs like Photoshop and Illustrator let them practice theses skill sets and also provide a creative outlet for expression. Islands Of Brilliance is a non-profit program that ties children on the autism spectrum to design professionals to help learn this software. Through this, the professionals learn about the capabilities and also struggles of a child with autism, and that student gets to learn a program to express themselves with.
These digital mediums are helping to transform the lives of those living with autism through knowledge, communication, and also by providing a creative outlet.
April is autism awareness month. Currently, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism, with 62% being boys. It is one of the fastest growing behavioral development disorders in the US, with no detection or cure. If you would like to donate or learn more, visit Autism Speaks.