Digital Media Benefiting Autism

One in 68 children in this country are affected with autism, a developmental disability that can make interacting difficult.

Through technology, local educators have found a new way to help these kids communicate.

Students with autism can face challenges with social communication, language and interaction, but technology is now offering a chance for these students to find their voice.

Courtney Peters, a Special Educator at Naperville Central High School, has found that adding social media into her program has given her students a way to connect within their comfort levels.

For an autistic child, sometimes a twit-pic can speak a thousand words.

“If I can teach them to use some of these platforms at least they’ll stay connected in some way and they wont be involved like a typical teenager but at least they’ll be communicating and sharing and they’re being social in the digital world and that’s really what socializing is turning into, using digital platforms,” said Peters.

“Tweeting feelings is hard with a person with autism, sometimes there’s a big disconnect between the person and recognizing what their feelings are. I think a more realistic way is for a student to share a picture of things that they’re doing or what they see and tweet what they’re doing at that time and then have friends and family look and comment.”

For Little Friends, a not-for-profit that serves children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, the use of a smart board has changed the way students interact.

The giant white board with touch-screen capabilities allows kids to take turns choosing pictures and words. The visual nature of the interaction is what makes it so successful.

“With the smart boards, one of the benefits that we learned is students have developed a social awareness with the use of the smart board,” said Camille Smith, Vice President of School Programs at Little Friends. “Students who would not previously engage with other students or in class are more interactive, it’s good for not only building cognitive skills but social skills as well.”

On a smaller scale, the iPad can be used as a personal device to communicate needs and wants, allowing students to be both the responder and the initiator. And digital and voice output programming helps support verbal language development.

Adding all this technology to the toolbox isn’t just an education — it’s a life-changer.

“When you teach a child to communicate, you give them control over their world,” said Smith.

Little Friends is always accepting iPad donations so if you would like to donate visit www.littlefriendsinc.org.

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