It is important for all parties involved in supporting a pupil with Autism to consider potential benefits and challenges of using ICT. Technology can provide a secure, comfortable environment for children and young people with autism. They can feel more in control, be familiar with the routines involved, and there is often little need to communicate with others, which can have positive and negative implications.
Technology can help children to become more independent in work tasks and develop skills they can also use at home. However decisions regarding the set-up of any technology will need to be carefully planned; the use of a laptop can require a higher level of school staff support than some staff expect.
Often staff use ICT as a reward activity - or to help reduce demand in busy social situations (i.e. during break times) or to unwind.The appeal of ICT to many pupils with autism can be used as a motivator and offers opportunities to learn in ways suited to their learning styles. However, it is important that it is made clear to pupils when ICT is being used as a learning tool or as a recreation activity. This will help reduce anxiety and will help avoid pupils accessing programmes/websites unrelated to current task.
Techonology is dynamic and can utilised in a variety of innovative ways not simply restricted to using a computer. Many schools have examples of good practice and use of many forms of ICT to enhance the learning and skills development of young people with autism.
Pupils access to ICT should be planned and regulated consistently by staff. Timetabling can help reduce pupil fixations or over stimulation when using ICT. Having a designated area for ICT use or covering a computer screen can limit distraction outwith ICT time. Pupils must be made aware of policies and guidelines in school regarding access and use of Social Media and Networking. Clear information should be given regularly regarding possible consequences and impacts on pupil safety as well as the benefits of use of ICT.
• Tasks are usually presented in a consistent manner;
• Programs can be interactive - interpreting or presenting information in alternative ways;
• Information is presented visually; multimedia formats make tasks interesting
• Suits those who may get overloaded with language or task content;
• Can help focus attention on task when the need to engage and interact with people reduced
• Language can be simplified;
• Technology can support communication at a variety of levels and in a variety of formats
• Many pupils quickly click on buttons/links even when they may not really understand the content of what they are accessing.
• Some pupils may use technical vocabulary in a way that sounds like they know all about the equipment/software which does not always translate to the practical application of skills.
• Opportunities for interaction are often reduced unless activities are carefully planned Many pupils with autism find it difficult to understand if the settings on a computer have been changed. This is particularly relevant to internet access, which is usually controlled and safeguarded within school settings.
• Problems or breakdowns can cause extreme anxiety and frustration, leading to behaviour incidents if individuals have poor self regulation. How to cope with such incidents needs to be rehearsed.
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