How Assistive Technology can help autistic people

Ike Foundation for Autism on Friday said Assistive Technology such as Augmented Alternative Communication Devices (AACs) and Video Modelling (VM) could help Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) individuals to communicate.

The Executive Director of the foundation, Mr Francis Mohie, explained that technology had added value to interventions and could assist persons living with disabilities in diverse ways.

“Among other skills, technology has helped children and families living with ASD in improving their communication skills, appropriate behaviour skills, relationship and social skills, coping strategies etc.

“While this is gaining acceptance across the globe, in some African cultures, teachers, councilors and other professionals are really working hard to convince families to accept the use of technology.

“Some of the technological applications gaining thrust include augmentative and alternative communication devices, video
modelling (VM) and virtual reality.”

According to Mohie, the technology covers a wide range of functions, design and purpose for this group of people.

The executive director added that AACs support the development of language in children and adults with ASD who have limited verbal skills, echolalia or are nonverbal.

He recalled that Millar, Light, and Schlosser (2006), scholars with research report on speech, language and hearing observed that AACs use increased communication production in individuals with developmental disabilities and autism.

Mohie said that people living with ASD could make demands by selecting symbols, pictures, letters, words, signs, and expressions which can be stored and retrieved through electronic messages or voice output.

“Augmentative and alternative communication tools can be simple, non-electric books, boards or more complex high-tech devices that use eye gaze, head or mouth pointers to assist users who have physical limitations.’’

He, however, advised that counselors and other professionals working with families having people living with ASD should be sensitive to their needs and ideologies.

According to him, they should pay more attention to when using symbols, colors, signs, and verbiage in AAC devices, virtual scenarios, or video, since meanings vary across cultural groups.

“To one culture, symbols, colours can be fine and to the other, they can be offensive.’’

The director said that video modeling and virtual environments should be created with family input to ensure they correspond with family values and ideologies.

The world marked Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) on April 2 to sensitise the public and ensure increased advocacy for people living with the disorder.

The theme of the celebration was “Assistive Technology, Active Participation.”