Autism and Technology: A Look at How Technology Can Help Autism Educators in Teaching with ABA

This is the second installment in our special guest blog post series by Alexander Price, who teaches children with autism and works collaboratively with the families of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, as well as the agencies that fund their treatment, to provide education, training, and conduct research towards finding solutions. Previously, Alexander worked for Community Options assisted living group homes for adults with developmental disabilities.

By Alexander Price (@asprice18)

Autism education uses a few different teaching strategies. For the purposes of this blog posts, I’m going to talk primarily about ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), which I’ve been trained in and use every day at work. Without going into all of the eye-glazing details of ABA theory, its a data-based teaching technique. Basically, that means that the classroom staff records data on the learners responses to measure their rate of learning and the effectiveness of teaching techniques. The difficulty of accurately recording data comes in the form of behaviors, or episodes of aggression, which the teachers have to manage and subdue while running teaching trials.

New technologies can help to alleviate these difficulties by utilizing tablets for both data-taking and presenting materials. While tablets would not be able to replace teaching materials entirely, particularly those that rely on tactile sensation, they would provide a good way to teach skills while simultaneously taking response data. One component of teaching with ABA is receptively identifying objects, words, or numbers. This process is not unlike Rosetta Stones method of teaching. Typically, an array of approximately four pictures (or numbers, words, etc.) is placed before the learner, and they are asked to touch the specific object, or touch the object with specific characteristics.

To help visualize, a set of photos could include an apple, a backpack, a faucet, and basketball. The learner could be asked to touch each item (receptively identifying it by name), or could be asked to touch the one that is red/crunchy/food (the apple), what has a zipper/you put your notebook in/you put in your locker (the backpack), etc. If the teacher were to pre-program which questions they planned to ask, the tablet could both set up the array, and vary the pictures quicker than a person could; it could also take data on responses based on which item the learner touches, freeing the instructor up to run behavioral plans and error correction procedures.

As tablets become more versatile in their sizes and configurations, they could be adapted to a wide range of teaching methods. As the price of the technology comes down, tablets could be incorporated into students teaching routines, whether hand-held or built into the desks (to minimize damage/loss). As mobile technology changes, the special education field would be wise to keep up, and take advantage of new and unique teaching opportunities.



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