Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. With a growing incidence in the country, The Autism Society was founded in 1965 and in the early 1970s began a nationwide campaign to raise awareness. Nearly 50 years later, April is still celebrated as a time to raise awareness around the differences of those on the spectrum, supporting people and educating the public on this disorder.
Improving Communication for the Autistic
There are so many permutations on the Spectrum Disorder, from symptoms that are barely discernible to the uninformed observer to behaviors and developmental dysfunctions that require twenty-four hour care. One characteristic common to those autistic is an impaired ability to communicate. This is an especially difficult for those who are totally non-verbal and their families.
Frustration for parents, teachers and care-givers is a given, but imagine how hard it must be for the kid who is unable to make himself understood. He or she has thoughts and emotions, but is prevented from expressing them to others.
In support of those who are autistic Apple released a video ad that touted the iPad as an avenue to communication for those who are non-verbal using assistive software on the device. The Apple commercial depicts a young man who is non-verbal whose world is opened up with the use of technology.
Dillon, who previously felt trapped in his own head by not being able to talk, is now able to convey his thoughts and emotions with a machine. The young student seems to make tremendous strides in communication. We see him address his graduation class to the cheers of his audience. It's an uplifting message and sounds like the perfect solution to resolve the challenges that people such as Dillon face.
Assistive devices like the iPad and accompanying applications are changing the lives of non-verbal autistics. "If you're just going off what you see," says Dillon's mother, " the assumption is often that there is a lack of intelligence." But now that Dillon can type his thoughts, his teachers, fellow students and others have seen what a smart and imaginative young man he is.
It caused Dillon emotional pain before this technology enabled him to express this thoughts and opinions. "Without a voice, people only see my disorder and not the real me." Locked in his head were all the things he wanted to get out and share with the world. With the iPad, he told his therapist it was like being freed. "It allows me to be seen."
Now that Dillon can communicate, a world of opportunity is open to him. He and others will be the first generation of non-verbal autistics to be empowered with a voice thanks to technology.
Technology and specifically the iPad, has also given one young Autistic woman the opportunity to attend college and pursue a career in special education. Jordyn Zimmerman was able to communicate verbally to a limited extent, which led others to believe her intelligence was limited as well. This was far from true. Jordyn says that technology has enabled her to communicate more effectively and allowed others to appreciate "my ability to comprehend complex language or have advanced thoughts".
Autism Awareness Month will pass without many people taking notice, but for those who are affected, it is an opportunity to get the attention of those who are willing to listen to understand that the Autistic are an untapped resource of intelligence, talent and joy who can contribute greatly to our society and culture.
Working with the Autistic is a commitment of dedicated educators and therapists. If you are seeking a position in the field, contact us to find what is available for you.
Image courtesy of Neirfy / Shutterstock.com
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