A few months ago I was sitting in the DMV, waiting for my number to be called. Everyone know the feeling of sitting in the DMV, all you can think of is why there are only 2 windows open and there seemingly 800 people in line. I was really hoping that the time would pass quickly since of course I had somewhere else to be, but everyone knows that’s never the case…
Then the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation with me, and coincidentally I believe it was about smart phones. Our conversation encompassed many things but what will always stick out in my mind was the story of his son.
His son was non-verbal autistic. Of course many people do not completely understand autism, which is really sad considering the number of children/people effected with it. 1 in 88 people are diagnosed with some type of autism. I mean WOW. Also, considering the ease of finding basic information just by Google surprises me that more people are not educating themselves about this disorder. It is not like autism is a new concept. Hello…RAIN MAN!!
Anyways to continue with the story, the gentleman went on describing his sons personality and how it was a lot of work and took patience but was always so rewarding. He told me about how he was able to use iPad apps to help his son with many of the daily activities as well as learning tool. I thought this was so awesome, technology can really be beneficial to aid as learning tool and I had never looks at an iPad or tablet in that way until then. Since my best friend is an aid for autistic children his age and I have learned a lot from her, I was able to hold a good conversation and I really enjoyed learning more about this little boy. Then, there was the priceless picture of his son with the biggest smile on his face, because he had just used the iPad to order his own lunch at a restaurant! I can’t imagine the feeling that little boy was feeling, but I could see it on his face! He couldn’t talk, but the iPad could talk for him. He knew all this stuff he just couldn’t put it into words himself, but the iPad could.
Then, I went to autism.com (yeah its that easy there is a website as simple as that to look up information). When I got to the site the first thing I see is an article about how at the University of Utah they are focusing on helping change the way they teach children with autism! Using SketchUp they can focus on the skills they are strong in, which will help them succeed in the classroom. Also, it is not just about sitting in front of a computer or tablet, as Scott Wright said, “Look at what’s very unique here, the social interaction going on. This isn’t just sitting in front of a computer with tunnel vision. They are sharing and learning from each other.” This is so key, autistic children usually have difficulty with the social interaction part.
I think there is much to learn from this…and that it is that you must pull from the strengths of the students you are teaching. Whether they may be autistic, have down syndrome, other learning disabilities or not, they will all have different strengths, which is why you should be adaptive, still have structure, but understand that you are there to help your students succeed. Technology can be a essential and significant tool in teaching, and it should be interactive and not tunnel vision, so instead of always handing over the tablet or computer, work together, learn together and teach together.