2006 Conference General Sessions



Kerry Randle
105 - 1750 West 75th Avenue
Vancouver V6P 6G2 Canada
Day Phone: 604-261-9450 x314
Email: krandle@setbc.org

Students with ASD are successfully supported with a variety of assistive technologies in BC schools. What technologies and how they are implemented will be described.

Special needs students in our school system now use a wide range of assistive technologies to support their educational programs. Students with visual impairments, physical challenges and communication disorders are examples of those who can use a wide variety of technologies to access their individualized curricula.

Assistive technology is often considered for one group of students in particular – those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Many school based teams in British Columbia are currently implementing a variety of technologies in an attempt to address both the motor planning issues and communication challenges that characterize these disorders. Despite the large numbers of teams seeking solutions that involve technology, the teams are often unsure what types of technology are effective, what strategies should be used to implement the technology, or what results can be expected. In the area of assistive technology research, studies specifically investigating technology and students with ASD are relatively few in number and can often not be reliably generalized to the autistic population as a whole.

In British Columbia, assistive technology is supported in the K–12 school system by SET-BC (Special Education Technology–British Columbia). SET-BC provides consultation, training and technology loans to teams working with special needs students including those with ASD. The numbers of teams requesting technology support for these students in particular is growing steadily and it is becoming critical that effective methods for implementing this technology be established.

To assist school based teams in selecting and implementing assistive technology with students with ASD, SET-BC conducted a provincial study which examined and reported the results of a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews completed by British Columbia school based teams currently implementing assistive technology with students with ASD in the public K-12 school system. Over 250 school based teams were surveyed initially. The responses received provided a wealth of information on composition of school based teams supporting students with ASD, types of students currently implementing assistive technology, types of technology currently being implemented, uses of technology in the students’ programs, and team perceptions of the value of assistive technology for this student population. Several reporting teams were followed up with phone and video interviews focusing on successful assistive technology implementation strategies. The overall study included students along the range of autism spectrum disorders, implementing a wide variety of assistive technologies supporting a variety of communication, social, and academic goals.

From the analysis of the survey and interview results, support resource materials in the form of a study report and a presentation of considerations and recommendations when selecting and implementing technology with students with ASD was created. These resource materials are available online for anyone considering or currently using technology to support students with ASD. In addition to the materials created, other online resources were collected and presented as a list of resource links.

The study clearly indicated that school based teams are generally being very successful when implementing assistive technology with this student population. Successful implementation appears to depend on a number of factors including attitude and orientation of the team itself, effective student and technology match, thoughtful technology introduction and implementation plan, and the type of technology being implemented.  

This presentation will describe the results of the provincial study, outline considerations when implementing assistive technology with students with ASD, and offer suggestions for selecting, introducing, and supporting technology with these students.

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