Assistive Technology for Autism

What is AT? 

According to the United States Assistive Technology Act of 1998, assistive technology (AT) refers to any "product, device, or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."

Common AT includes screen magnifiers, large-key keyboards, alternative input devices such as touch screen displays, over-sized trackballs and joysticks, speech recognition programs, text readers, and so much more.

Assistive Technology is used by many people. Some need AT to help them get out of bed, while others use AT to help them eat. But for a person with Autism, AT can mean the difference between being able to communicate your thoughts and feelings or having them trapped inside your mind. There are many types of AT used by a person with autism. There is AT to help a person with reading and writing. AT can also help with communication, learning, and access to your world as well as behavior support and daily living activities.

                For those with fine motor dexterity trouble or those that have trouble writing neatly, pencil grips are a great way to assist with writing.  It allows the fingers to fit in a comfortable position and typically comes in many colors for those with sensory problems.  Word Processing Software will also help a person who is unable to handle a typical writing utensil such as pen or pencil/

To assist with reading, adapted or electronic books (eBooks) are very helpful. It allows the individual with autism to be able to experience literature and gain knowledge without the difficulty sometimes associated with reading. There are also many apps that can help with this as well.

Augmentative communication devices give voice to those who would otherwise not feel comfortable talking or not being able to talk at all. These devices consist of sound boards with pictures and buttons that form words and sentences for them. Smart devices such as phones and tablets can be adapted with a simple app to perform this task.

Photo showing what a visual schedule could look like for a child with autism

The classroom can be especially difficult for someone with autism. Most classrooms already come with AT. Calculators, computers, and interactive whiteboards all allow students to better connect with their education, and this is no different than a child with autism needing a special device to assist them with learning as well. Visual Supports and timers can help a child stay focused and on task, adapted keyboards and mice with trackballs can be that tiny modification that allows them to control the computer in the classroom.