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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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7.3 Assistive technology

There is rapid growth in assistive technology, the use of technology, and especially IT, to help autistic people. This is a massive field, of which only a brief summary can be given here. Smartphones, tablets and computers have all been harnessed to help autistic people deal with problems of daily living, learn social and communicative skills, and in other ways. One important strand is the development of smartphone ‘apps’ designed to help autistic people with daily living skills. For instance, an able young person may become anxious and confused if the bus they always catch to school is late or fails to come. A smartphone app could offer practical actions for such a situation, for example: wait 20 minutes and then call parents at home; check the bus timetable for other possible buses. In video modelling a child or adult learns a new behaviour, such as how to greet a friend, by watching it being modelled by someone on a computer screen. Some more traditional approaches, such as the visual schedule shown in Fig. 1, are now available in computerised versions. Finally, researchers have started investigating the use of robots to teach new skills, on the view that robots provide a particularly accessible medium for an autistic person to learn from. You will find more information about these approaches on the Research Autism website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .