Education

Let’s Talk Autism

By January 25, 2013 No Comments

News coming from the education industry is filled with current trends, new technology, professional development tools and updates from the many associations we follow closely. Federal and state policies, revised standards, conferences and resources for educators and students fill my inbox on a daily basis. And, I love it. Learning something new every single day is exciting. However, there’s another, critical, topic popping up a lot more than it  used to — autism.

The numbers are pretty astonishing — 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with autism. This has led to an entirely new category of tools being developed to help children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn and grow in a way that fits their personal needs, at home and in the classroom.

Here’s what I like about this development:

  1. The change in focus from an “oh no, this is horrible” attitude to “let’s do something to help these people learn, grow and thrive” is promising, positive and proactive.
  2. Emphasizing the true potential of individuals with autism instead of the many challenges they face could lead to a healthier outlook about the disorder, and additional opportunities for them in the future.
  3. Smart, tech-focused companies are using their knowledge to create new apps and products that are way more affordable, useful, easy to understand and accessible to both children and adults diagnosed with ASD.

I love seeing positive stories about individuals with autism beating the odds and paving the way for a brighter future. A couple weeks ago, I read a about a young lady with autism who competed in the recent Miss America pageant. She’s overcome a lot to be Miss Montana and is helping to foster a deeper public understanding of ASD. Check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/alexis-wineman-miss-america-montana-autistic_n_2448848.html

When more of us begin to see autism in a different light, there will be more opportunities for future growth. Job creation, additional funding, new programs and more will increase the chances for individuals with autism to lead normal, healthy lives while contributing to society in a positive way.

I was completely overwhelmed by the number of new apps, focusing on learning disabilities and special education in the iTunes store. An entirely new category has been created and many of the apps are free (or very affordable). It’s an amazing breakthrough to be able to use these new media technologies to help children and adults learn in ways they’ve never done before. You can find apps for communication, emotional development, seeing and hearing, language development, literacy and learning, diagnostics and reference, organization and life skills. I’ve come across many of these apps in articles, such as See.Touch.Learn™, an app created by Brain Parade to help teach new words and foster self-expression for children with learning disabilities. These apps are being praised for the many benefits and overwhelmingly positive effect, they’re having on the development and learning process for children and adults with special needs.

I’m confident more products will be making their debut as we begin to understand the needs of those with ASD better, while finding new ways for them to thrive and succeed in this world. Everyone deserves the chance to learn. And, I’m excited to play a role in spreading the word to those who need to hear it most.