By: Christina Q . – ABA Therapist at Sidekicks
Technology has been rapidly expanding in our society, more today than ever before. As technology becomes more accessible, it has assumed many different purposes. Through both my Sidekicks experience, and my experience as a speech-language pathologist graduate student, I’ve seen technology used as a means of communication, reinforcement, and entertainment. Due to its growing availability, technology has assumed a role in our education system. In 2011, a study by Rollin’s KB found that when observing 141 general education teachers, 44% utilized technology at some point during their class. Technology has not only grown in the general education realm, but it also is implemented in special education classes as well. One study found that 100% of the speech-language pathologists surveyed believed that technology is helpful for the development of speech and language skills of children with intellectual disabilities (Fatima, Fazil, Malik, Akhtar, Ashraf, and Sumaira, 2012). Whether its function is to treat through therapy, or used as a motivating tool, technology is being utilized for both typically developing children and children with special needs alike. From a speech-language perspective, I’ve found technology to be a great addition to therapy for certain children.
There are so many different apps today that address speech and language issues. I currently work as a speech-intern at a special education school, and for some of my students, the use of a tablet has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The students enjoy playing the games and many of the apps have a wonderful set up for taking data. Because the students enjoy playing the games so much, it is easier for them to stay on task and it helps me target their goals. On the contrasting side, I’ve tried to implement technology into therapy where it has been a very negative experience. Some of the children become too distracted by the tablet itself and are not able to attend to tasks or use the apps for their intended purpose. Whether it’s a matter of overstimulation or difficulty completing the tasks, the students can become easily frustrated in which case the implementation of technology is not beneficial. I’ve seen this both working with children at home through Sidekicks and through working with children through speech-language therapy. It’s a delicate balance trying to figure out when technology is an appropriate intervention for students, one that I am still learning.
There are endless types of technology being introduced into the markets daily, and technology from even five years ago can be drastically different from the technology we use today. This is one of the reasons why I am so interested in this area and how it pertains to my field, technology is continuously growing. For example, virtual reality, a technology originally created for entertainment purposes, is starting to be studied as a means to teach individuals social skills. I am currently in a Thesis course where my class has decided to focus on emerging technology (virtual reality) and how it can benefit children with autism. To understand what technologies can be most effective for children with autism, I believe it is critical get the perspective of the individuals who will be implementing this technology, specifically the parents/guardians of children with autism. Myself and a few of my classmates have created a survey that explores the parents/guardians of children with autism perceptions of technology. This survey explores what technologies are being utilized at home, what they are used for, whether the parents/guardians find that technology beneficial, and how receptive they are to new developing technologies. This information is important because it can help us determine future technologies will be beneficial at both home, at school, and in therapy settings for children with autism.