ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006: 8:15 AM-9:30 AM
Narragansett Ballroom B
#2172- I Want Computer
The computer gives the student with autism the environment which lends to good learning. This presentation will address how to take the computer and make it a very viable learning tool so the student will be saying “I want computer”. The programs demonstrated will use video, pictures, sounds, and text. Checking for comprehension and data keeping is needed. The participant will be shown how to do this electronically and reduce the amount of time taken away from precious instruction time.

Presenter:Jo Meyer, Degrees:, BA, MS, Iowa, State,, SoftTouch, Inc, Founder, President, Consultant - Ms. Meyer taught special education for 32 years. She is currently consulting in classrooms with students with autism, severe disabilities, and multiple disabilities to bring technology to the instruction. She started making software for students in her classroom 17 years ago. SoftTouch currently has 31 products specifically designed for students with autism. She is a sought out national speaker in assistive technology. She presents 2-3 topics each year to national conferences as well as other smaller conferences: • Closing the Gap 15 years) • Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (15 years) • Assistive Technology Industry Association (5 years)
ABSTRACT: Students on the autism spectrum can be very different from each other, having different needs and educational strategies. There are some similarities. These students tend to do best in a very structured environment that is predictable.

Educators have the task to meet the students' social, behavioral, self-help, vocational and curriculum needs and at the same time keeping the environment conducive to the student's best learning style.

Educators have used computers for these students and found them very helpful. Dinah Murray, 1999, "Autism and Computing" notes that students with autism tend to tunnel their attention. This is called this monotropism. Murray contends that computers can be the ideal learning and therapeutic environment for students even at the extreme end of the autism spectrum. Computers address the need to be predictable, controllable, non-judgmental,

Murray also describes the desirable world to students with autism. It includes the following: • Rules • Rituals which are formal and reliable • Language that is factual or ritual • Highly predictable environment • Clear distinctions • Unhurried pace • Environment with minimal stimulus

Computers fit all of these desirable characteristics. It also allows for increased socialization, communication, turn taking, exploration, concentration, gaining knowledge.

Using video and pictures to teach students with autism is very beneficial. We can teach curriculum, social behaviors, vocational tasks, and much more with the use of videos and pictures. If the student's own pictures and videos are used, how much more effective is this? We can use Power Point to start this process of teaching, but this program is limiting.

When we introduce concepts, we need to give students time to explore and play. At some level, it is time to ask for comprehension. Has the student gained any knowledge after their play? Do we need to teach comprehension? What other skills do we want the student to learn while we are teaching our main goal. Of course, we also have the dilemma of data keeping. Many educators are spending much precious teaching time recording and documenting data.

SoftTouch has solutions to the educational needs of the students and the demands of the educational systems including three authoring programs -- My Own BookShelf, Task Builder and Test Me, Score Me . My Own BookShelf and Task Builder ,allows the educator to develop personalized tasks, social, behavioral, or vocational skills, or present standard curriculum using graphics, text, videos, and music. The educator can build personalized books or tasks or general tasks. They can easily be changed and adapted for a new student or situation or shared with other teachers. These programs can be used to engage, entertain or teach. All parts of learning are important.

The programs also keep student specific preferences and data that can be selected and printed for the student's portfolio. Printing in 3 different sizes allows a hard copy to be made for task cues or a book to share with family and friends.

Test Me, Score Me can be used in conjunction with the two other authoring programs. The books or tasks can be imported. Comprehension questions, multiple choice questions, matching tasks can be made to test the students understanding. If the student isn't ready for a test, the test taking process can be taught by enabling the cueing system in the program. If the student needs a cue, it is ready by just turning on one preference.

But what if the educator does not want to create their own curriculum? Running Start Books and Testing Modules along with curriculum software is readymade. Some titles are “Jobs 1”, “Social Scripts”, and “Animated Stories”.

What if the student cannot use a mouse? No problem, all of SoftTouch programs have universal access that includes mouse, single switch, two switch, touch screen, and IntelliKeys keyboard. Within the mouse selection, different types and sizes of cursors can be selected.

This presentation will • Give background knowledge to the participants why using a computer in conjunction with other types of educational intervention is good for students with autism • Show examples both in Power Point and My Own BookShelf/TaskBuilder of Story Scripts, Vocational Tasks, Functional Tasks, Behavior Scripts, and Educational Curriculum. • Show how these examples will link with educational standards and research in the field of literature and reading. • Show videos of teachers in the field talking about their experiences using individualized computer programs with their students with autism. • Show videos of students with autism using the individualized programs. • Show students taking tests or learning to take test via the computer and the documentation it provides. • Give the participant a free computer program made just for this presentation.

Outcomes for the participant: The participant will have knowledge of reason to use computer technology with students with autism. The participant will gain knowledge into the research of reading for students. The participant will have examples of tasks, books, and tests to create. The participant will see a variety of programs to create the activities such as PowerPoint and My Own BookShelf. The participant will gain knowledge in combining instructional goals with computer access goals. The participant will take home a computer program to start with their students.

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