Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects how people communicate and interact with others. The condition affects each person differently whereas difficulties with social communication and social interaction, and repetitive behaviour, routines and activities being the two distinct features among autistic individuals.
In September2018, the UN Secretary-General launched a new Strategy on New Technologies, which aims at supporting the use of these technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. To farther this agenda, this year’s World Autism Awareness Day observance at UN Headquarters in New York will focus on leveraging the use of assistive technologies for persons with autism as a tool in removing the barriers to their full social, economic and political participation in society, and in promoting equality, equity and inclusion.
Advances in technology have driven, and continue to drive, cutting edge advances in assistive technology. There are a range of products and services designed and developed to promote independence specifically for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Researchers studying the impact of assistive technology on training needs, state that adults with ASD often have many characteristics that are considered valuable in a workplace; for example, they may have excellent mathematical or logical ability, high productivity, and desirable traits such as honesty and reliability. Nonetheless, they claim, adults with autism face additional challenges at work due to functional difficulties related to cognition, behaviour, communication and sensory-processing that can impact work performance.
Technology-aided interventions could be used to teach adults with ASD specific on-the-job skills, such as how to complete tasks like folding or photocopying, and generic skills, such as social and interview skills i.e. through the use of tablets, iPads and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Assistive technology can be utilized in a number of ways, including:
- Time management—applications can provide reminder prompts to users and be used to cue users to switch between tasks.
- Task management—studies have shown that to-do lists, pictorial slide shows, and task sequencing videos that provide instruction on more complex tasks may be beneficial for people with ASD.
- Task training using video-modeling—where a skill or behaviour is learnt by watching a video of someone performing that behaviour