Technology a bridge for kids with autism

Tech assist: Ethan, 12, will benefit from a program aimed at helping children who are non-verbal.
Tech assist: Ethan, 12, will benefit from a program aimed at helping children who are non-verbal.

A NEW program will give 40 children across Sydney who have autism spectrum disorders the chance to use iPads to communicate at home and at school.

"Autism Kids Communicate" was launched in conjunction with donated support from St George Foundation, Lions Club of Lugarno and the Australian Lions Foundation.

A combined grant worth more than $33,000 will go towards the purchase of iPads which will be distributed by the Autism Community Network, a parent-run charity which aims to improve the quality of life for children living with the condition.

Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities.

The inability to communicate effectively often presents a barrier to learning and literacy, and creates obstacles to social and emotional development and independence.

But new special communication technologies now permit the storage and retrieval of electronic messages using speech output.

Devices such as iPads can provide a bridge from a life where thoughts, feelings and needs are held in silence, to a life where interaction, expression and learning are possible.

Autism Community Network operations manager Steve Drakoulis, of Beverly Hills, said the technology helped reduce children's anxiety and isolation, and helped them reconnect with their parents and teachers.

"Our children learn differently to typically developing children," he said.

"They often have strong visual processing skills and are drawn to computers.

"For parents themselves, the opportunity to communicate with their children is also something to get very excited about."

Details: autismcommunity.org.au

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