2002 Conference Proceedings

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Choosing Computers and Software for Children With Autism

Jean Wunder, LINC Special Education Coordinator
1001 Eastern Ave., 3rd Fl.
Baltimore, MD 21202
E-mail: jwunder@linc.org 

Kathy Griffin, UCP of Idaho Program Director
United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho, Inc.
5530 West Emerald
Boise, Idaho 83706
E-mail: jwunder@linc.org">ucpidaho@aol.com

This one-hour session will provide information on techniques and assistive technology solutions for children with autism spectrum disorders. Information is based on my professional experience working with children with autism in a classroom setting and as an assistive technology consultant for over a 17 years. Information for this presentation is founded on current research in the field of autism and the use of assistive technology as it relates to the child's behavior, environment, and particular learning style. Participants will become better acquainted with the challenges and solutions in working with children with autism and how assistive technology interventions can benefit each child's educational progress. At the conclusion of our one-hour session participants will have knowledge of various intervention strategies and specific hardware and software recommendations to take back to their work sites.

Participants will be introduced to key concepts through a PowerPoint presentation about:

* Reasons to use a computer with children with autism for the purpose of academic achievement, behavior management, language development, increased social interaction, and improved leisure skills.
* Pre-planning strategies to consider before the child works on the computer.
* Software attributes that will increase the child's motivation and success rate.
* Behavioral management techniques such as environmental engineering, maximizing computer access features, and rewarding reinforcement schedules.

The presentation will continue with a demonstration of commercial software designed for children with disabilities and multimedia activities created by the presenters for cause and effect learning, emerging language and academic skill development. These software selections are based on the developmental framework called "Stages" created by Madalaine Pugliese, MS for cognitive and language development. Software programs will be selected for each of the seven stages included in her framework such as:

* Cause and Effect - a look at an independent activity created by myself with Intellipics by Intellitools (r) to demonstrate multimedia capabilities as a solution to creating individualized and motivating activities.
* Emerging Language - First Words by Laureate (tm).
* Advanced Concepts and Communication - Simon Spells(r) by Don Johnson
* Functional Learning - First Money(tm) by Attainment Company

As we view each software program we will review specific attributes such as individual learning styles, responsivity, task variation, and overselectivity all of which can guarantee their success or failure for use with children with autism. Drawing from personal experiences from the classroom we will illustrate these concepts in detail, describing how children reacted to each of the programs


* Higgins, Kyle; Boone, Randall. (1996). Creating Individualized Computer-Assisted Instruction for Students With Autism Using Multimedia Authoring Software. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities; v.11, n2, p69-78 Sum.

* Hutinger, Patricia L. (1996). Applications in Programs for Young Children with Disabilities: Recurring Themes. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities; v11, n2, p105014, 124 Sum.

* Hutinger, Patricia; Rippey, Robert. (1997). How Five Preschool Children with Autism Responded to Computers. ACTTive Technology; v12, n1-4 Win-Fall..

* Stages, Software Solutions for Special Needs. Assistive Technology Inc., 7 Wells Avenue. Newton, MA 02459. Website: http://www.assistivetech.com/p-stages.htm

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