By Tim Courtney, MS, BCBA
We live in a very exciting time, where technology is rapidly changing the world around us. For individuals with autism and language/communication deficits, technology has had a sudden and dramatic effect. Individuals with autism that are non-vocal account for about 25% of this population, based upon recent research. Technology has assisted this population with communicating, either via exchange of pictures, text to voice output, and speech generating devices.
Speech generating devices have changed dramatically from devices larger than most current laptops to devices like the iPad, iPad mini, or iPods that can achieve the exact same thing, and more, all while looking very typical. Look around most areas and all of us are using our devices to navigate and access our real and virtual social communities. Individuals with autism are not being left out.
The beauty of the recent tablet devices is the ease at which we can expand their functionality. Most everything we could ever want a device to do is available in an app. As of October 2013, the iOS app market now includes 1,000,000 apps. Fortunately, there is help with finding the right app to help individuals with autism. AutismSpeaks offers very helpful information for navigating the app store. The webpage even allows for searching the Android play store.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings. We are currently getting a glimpse into some of the possibilities. The Enable Talk glove which enables ASL signers to speak through a Bluetooth enabled phone, or the Hapifork that collects data and encourages either slower or faster eating through tactile feedback. Virtual reality through headsets like the Oculus Rift could provide for interesting ways to teach social skills, community skills, and even desensitization from situations that have evoked fear.
Tim Courtney is research and training director at Little Star Center, Indiana’s first ABA facility.