Thursday 23 May 2019

Using technology to help as my kids grow-up

Boy in iPad

My eldest son just finished his SATS.  It's the start of measuring him.. testing to see what he has learned and retained in core subjects.  I'm also spending time at the moment invigilating GCSEs at one of my local secondary schools. These tests could help the young adults sitting them get into college, university or get a job.  Thinking about that and what my kids might do is a bit scary.

I don't shy away from the amount of time my kids spend with tech.  There's no doubt that David uses his iPad for far more than simply entertainment.  Anthony too learns from playing his computer games.  But I wondered, could these also be the basis for helping them develop skills they need for the future or future work?  Or what could be done to help them take advantage of their comfort with tech?

The growth in modern technology is changing the range of communication options available for many autistic kids but some things could still be done to help.  Here’s some ideas of what technology can be used and what can be done to tech to help my kids as they try to become independent adults contributing to society.

Use more touch screens to augment motor skills

Makes common sense really.  Many autistic people struggle with motor control which can makes things like writing difficult.  This means filling in forms, signing into a building or taking notes in a meeting could be challenging.  My own son had a meltdown in a club once when he couldn't fit his name into the box on a form.

Researchers at Queen’s University, suggest that computer input devices, such as iPad touch screens, keyboards and mice may actually be better for those with ASD since they require less fine control to achieve a desired about. Typing, in particular, can help replace handwriting as the primary mode of written communication.  So if my son can 'sign-in' on a screen or dictate notes, he may be more efficient and comfortable

Using tech for social connections and internal communications

As our children grow we become more aware of the benefits and potential challenges of social media.   The closest my eldest has got to this is Fortnite. But an online platform could also be a great way for my kids to engage with their colleagues when they are working.

Many people with autism struggle to interpret social communication, body language and the subtilise of the spoken word. Using apps, like Blink, and technology for internal communications could help with communication and social engagement for people like my kids - using their skills and preferences as an advantage to get things picked up quicker and to record the information being passed across the work place.

Create and use more visual representations

Temple Grandin, author and speaker on autism, says that those with autism tend to interpret the world in terms of visual images, not written language.   She says that technologists need to better understand this so that those with the disorder are better able to do things, like navigate websites. She points out that computer technology is actually ideal for this end, since it has the power to display ideas graphically in a way, say, that a book cannot.

So when it comes to tech, companies can provide autistic people with online tools that don’t just rely on sequences but that instead use visual cues to represent tasks. Some apps, like Sequencing Tools, do provide a range of sequencing support tools, but only for a limited set of online scenarios.

Reduce the steps needed to do something online

My kids live on routines.  The good thing about them is that each time you only have to remember where you are in a routine to figure out what to do next.  If my son is getting dressed but gets distracted and forgets what he is doing, he just needs to look at what he's got on to know what he needs to next. Only got his pants on... then next it's his shirt.  If he's got everything but his socks and shoes on then it's time for socks.

But as some research suggests, my autistic kids can still forget where they are, and the longer the routine, the more likely this is to happen.   In the online world, this can create problems, since many internet-based functions rely on people being able to follow a certain sequence to achieve a particular end. Shopping on Amazon, entering credit card details, and filling out online forms all rely on a step-by-step processes that need to be followed precisely.

Anyone working at a computer for too many hours can experience eye strain. Unfortunately, eye strain among children and teens is a serious problem and is getting worse, so we also need to protect our children from overuse and ensure they’re not experiencing eye problems. So shortening the process is likely to help my kids in both ways.

What do you think to tech?  Do you think it can make things easier to function?


  1. Tech is here to stay so we may as well embrace it for kids. I believe in usung it to help them learn and encouraging outdoor play time along side this #KCACOLS

  2. I believe that there are tech people definitely out there already working on things on this list for people like your sons. I am confident that in time they will have their own types of programs that will be designed for them. Shoot, if you're tech savvy, maybe you can do it for your sons and others like them. This sounds like a problem well worth solving. I especially believe that if there could be an easier way for people to shop online that would help EVERYONE! #KCACOLS

  3. I definitely think there are advantages to tech and we need to embrace the fact that it's here to stay and find ways to integrate it into our children's lives in a beneficial and balanced manner #KCACOLS

  4. I'm a big believer in this too. As much as old timers like me might not like all of it, this is the world that they are growing up in. To not get them comfortable and knowledgeable at an early age is just setting them up to have to catch up down the road. #KCACOLS

  5. The tech is a part of their lives, even if it wasn't what we grew up with. As they grow up, they will need to learn perhaps how to code and work with new developments in technology, so they may as well be using it now! #KCACOLS

  6. It’s definitely here to stay, and I’m sure it’ll keep evolving! Tech will be part of every aspect of our kids’ lives soon so we might as well embrace it and help them as much as we can. Pretty soon, I’m sure it’ll be them helping us! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time. :)

  7. If IKEA can make their instruction leaflets entirely visually then I'm sure that tech companies could work towards this to support those who prefer to work and learn in this way to support use of technology. I definitely think that technology will continue to evolve and help to make our lives easier and hopefully support those who need it too. #KCACOLS

  8. I'm definitely happy for my (autistic) son to use tech for communication, learning, entertainment etc. It's already a great help to him, and can probably/hopefully be even more so as he grows up. Thanks for an interesting post on this subject! x #KCACOLS


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