Making a difference with technology

"The visual impact and accessibility of touchscreen computers and itechnology make them very engaging for our 9 year-old son Jack. These tools and the expertise of his therapists and teachers have enabled him to advance in so many areas."

Speech and communication disorders are one of the primary challenges experienced by children with ASD. At Giant Steps, under the direction of our Speech and Language Pathologist, we use a wide variety and combination of strategies including speech and voice output therapy, sign language, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and augmentative communication devices. Now with the widespread availability of the iPod and iPad, specialized communication software, and the appeal computers and devices have with children with ASD, iTechnology offers exciting opportunities for our kids beyond music and gaming.

What’s the attraction?
iTechnology is modifiable, predictable, visually appealing, portable and, compared to many augmentative communication devices, affordable. With touch screen capabilities, the iPad’s bigger screen, and specialized software like Proloquo2go and its voice output feature, iTechnology is an excellent communication option for many children. The camera on the iPad 2 enables users to quickly incorporate photos, personalizing the library of symbols and pictures that they can use to communicate. Thousands of apps offer unlimited programs and activities. And then there’s the COOL factor; this is technology for everyone, helping kids with autism fit in with typically developing children.

Here at Giant Steps, it is amazing to see how instantly engaged many students are when shown an iPad. Our kids use iPods and iPads as expressive communication tools, enabling them to communicate their wants and needs, make choices and greet others. Our teachers and therapists use them as tools to focus a child’s attention and reinforce positive behaviours.

Scheduling and timing apps help ease the transition and anxiety issues our students often experience moving to a new activity or setting.  Our kids also make simple journals on their iDevices, enabling them to share what has happened at school or home. Math, literacy and calendar activities are just some of the skills that are practised, helping them achieve academic and social skill goals. And in their neighbourhood schools, the use of iPods and iPads by our kids provides a wonderful natural link between them and their classmates.

Beyond iPods and iPads, technology is in use in many ways at Giant Steps. For some of our children, augmentative and voice output devices like the Dynavox and the Springboard are integral parts of their communication plans. SMART Boards, desk, laptop and touchscreen computers are well used in our classrooms and library/resource centre. The SMART Board’s large screen and interactive design provides unmatched visual input and limitless learning activities for our kids. Technology is everywhere at Giant Steps!