Autism & Computers

See also:    Assistive Technology   

Internet Resources

Project to use capture and access technology to facilitate Applied Behavior Analysis in teaching children with autism. A senior design team at Georgia Tech approached this problem in 2003 by coming up with a solution using tablet PCs and video capture.
Georgia Tech
Autism and Computing is a non-profit group. Its aim is to explore ways of minimizing the effects of a disabling society on people disposed to montropism. The theory behind Autism and Computing is a dynamical systems model of mind as an interest system. The model has illuminated some aspects of the autistic condition and yielded insights and suggested helpful approaches.
Dinah Murray, Mike Lesser
Computers can be an ideal environment for promoting communication, sociabilility, creativity, and playfulness for individuals even at the extreme of the autistic spectrum.
Dinah Murray, Mike Lesser
A program in Pascal to test Autistic children. EdTech is now programming Mackay's project in Macromedia Director to make it an executable file which will be downloadable from the web to both Macs and PCs.
Harry Mackay
Autismus ist rätselhaft und wird noch nicht sehr gut verstanden. Wir glauben, dass es der erste Schritt hin zu einem besseren Verständnis ist zu erkennen, dass Autismus keine Krankheit ist, sondern eine Art zu sein.
In this paper it is shown that software agents, that is algorithms, do not have a language in the sense that meaning can be conveyed and consequently they lack all the necessary properties to be made social.
Bertil Ekdahl
A division of the Department of Design Sciences at Lund University that strives to combine technology and education in ways that people with disabilities will find worth using.
Autism phenomena needs the thorough study of autistic behavior and reasoning, backed by the strict representation of what it means to reason in a “normal” versus an autistic manner.
For the same reasons that computers can be useful learning tools for people with autism, many people at the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum find that they are extremely good at jobs which involve computers.
Eona Bell, David Potter
Computer-assisted instruction may help BD students academically by increasing their time on task and decreasing disruptive behavior. Offers a personalized learning environment without the complications of adult interactions or behavioral control issues.
Marilyn Hudson-Tremayne
Children with autism take to the computer like a fish to water. First of all, the computer can be very predictable. Engaging animation is often included with these programs. Visual focus is on material that is illustrated on a vertical plane.
Valerie Herskowitz
Generative spelling thus may be derived from a teaching package that (a) involves video models and rewards and (b) arranges opportunities for learning to recombine initial consonants and word endings.
Elisabeth Kinney, Joseph Vedora, Robert Stromer
Will's Power...Mac; Building Bridges with Technology; Reader's Software Suggestions; Software Ideas & Resources for the Classroom & Home
Disability Solutions
Visitors to a major science exhibition are to help teach computers how to read confusion, mirth and other expressions. It is hoped that this will lead to the development of ways to help people with autism recognise emotions. The thousands of visitors to next week's Royal Society summer science exhibition are being invited to take part in research with "emotionally aware" computers designed to mind-read by analysing facial expressions.
Roger Highfield, Telegraph
We have begun the development of a virtual environment for training small children newly diagnosed with autism to attend to and decode face-borne communication.
Cheryl Trepagnier
The purposes of this essay are to quickly examine some of the personality traits that are associated with unusual creativity and innovation and to criticize management and educational techniques that penalize or discourage creativity.
Ronald Standler
Results support the usefulness of the program to teach the detection of facial affect. However, the improvement found is limited to a circumscribed area of social-communicative function and generalization is not ensured.
Sven Bölte et al
The research indicates that children with autism are capable of learning new language within an automated program centered around a computer-animated agent, multimedia, and active participation and can transfer and use the language in a natural, untrained environment.
Alexis Bosseler, Dominic W. Massaro
The potential for using virtual environments (VEs) in educational contexts for people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) has been recognized. However, very little is known about how people with ASDs interpret and understand VEs. This study aimed to investigate this directly with a group of 12 adolescents with ASDs, each individually matched with comparison participants. Participants were presented with VEs to assess whether they adhered to particular social conventions, such as not walking across grass and flowerbeds en route to a cafÈ, or not walking between two people (ostensibly involved in conversation) en route to the bar. Whilst a significant minority of the ASD group adhered to the social conventions, others displayed substantial 'off-task' behaviour and a limited understanding of the VE. It is suggested that some individuals with an ASD, low verbal IQ and weak executive ability require the most support to complete tasks successfully in the VE.
Sarah Parsons, Peter Mitchell, Anne Leonard
The study evaluates the progress of eight children aged 3-5 years with autism attending a specialist teaching unit in their development of reading skills in two conditions: computer instructed learning and book based learning. The authors developed a direct observation schedule to monitor autistic behaviours using computerized techniques. The children were matched by age, severity of autistic symptomatology and number of spoken words. They were initially randomly allocated to the computer or book condition and crossed over at 10 weeks. All of the children spent more time on task in the computer condition than in the book condition. By the end of the study after computer assisted learning, five of the eight children could reliably identify at least three words. It was found that children with autism spent more time on reading material when they accessed it through a computer and were less resistant to its use.
Christine Williams et al
This experiment compared the effect of computerized visual feedback (computer assisted instruction) with traditional play interaction (personal instruction) in promoting vocal imitation in children with autism. Ten non-verbal children with autism participated in ten sessions. Each session was composed of four sections: a parent and a trainer interacted with the child on the computer or using play interactions. The study was conducted as a simultaneous treatment design and the sequence of experimental conditions was randomized across sessions. Participants showed significantly greater vocal imitations in the computer assisted instruction condition, compared with the personal instruction condition. This trend was present in nine out of ten children. Vocal imitations increased across the sessions, with greater increments in the computer assisted instruction condition. These effects were consistent across both parent and trainer.
Vera Bernard-Opitz et al
A Report on Americans' Access to Technology Tools (Very large, slow-loading file.)
U.S. Department of Commerce. Economic, Statistics Administration. National Telecommunications, Information Administration
The complementary use of both text and audio information and richness of visual detail were differentially important to children with ASD.
Jill Fain Lehman
For some, the most important function of their computer has been the ability to communicate with other autistic individuals and other parents of autistic people.
Valerie Herskowitz
I'm a successful adult with a learning disability (dyslexia); part of the reason for my success is that I use computers to organize and express my ideas.
Richard Wanderman
Using computer activities requires that we do more than provide equipment or software. It must be individualized, incorporated into the total curriculum, and emphasize spontaneous interaction and independent functioning.
Patricia Hutinger, Robert Rippey
Find products and solutions for people with disabilities
Analysing their attitudes revealed that the technology enables socially impaired individuals to learn the meaning of emotions and understand more about how they communicate with their peers.
J. Bishop
Many people on the autism spectrum have reaped a multitude of benefits from the world wide web.
Paola Breda
Computers are certainly intriguing and captivating, and the Internet is most assuredly alluring with its research and communicative capacities. But overall, technology can be considered a positive enhancement to growth.
Bob Affonso
In recent years, the Internet has served as more than a metaphor for autistics; many have found the new medium strangely hospitable and empowering.
Harvey Blume
This paper discusses a number of issues related to the provision and dissemination of information and services to people in the community, particularly students in schools, who wish to acquire enabling computer related equipment.
Gerry Kennedy
We can form a concrete mental image of Joe's opinion of Jane's opinion of Jack's opinion of Jill's opinion on the water bond issue, a fourth-order construct, so we can carry out fifth-order reasoning about Joe ... but just barely!
Ben Goertzel
The Draft Mental Incapacity Bill recognises that individual capacity for competent decision making fluctuates. Accordingly those concerned are required to take all possible steps to maximise capacity before decision-making powers are devolved to another person. The draft legislation suggests that maximising capacity will include offering support in the following areas: Understanding information relevant to the decision; retaining information relevant to the decision; using that relevant information as part of the process of making the decision; communicating that decision (whether by talking,using sign language or any other means). These are key issues, but we would add that the emotional environment, and the identifying and accessing of relevant information, are more basic. Because of their narrowly focussed interests and their problems with communication, people on the autism spectrum, both those who speak and those who do not, will in most cases benefit from support in all these areas. Just as they were for schools, we suggest deals should be negotiated for people of uncertain capacity to be equipped, at minimal expense, with accessible computers, peripherals and software.
Dinah Murray, Mike Lesser
Unless steps are taken to ensure that everyone of debatable capacity has access to information technology, the Government's stated goals of empowerment and inclusion for all will not be achieved.
Dinah Murray, Mike Lesser
This case study looks at MicroMUSE, a text-based Multi-User Simulated Environment, and its use in Catalina Laserna's course T-504, Transformations of Mind: The Role of Media and Culture in Learning, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jason Jay
This study focuses on an attempt to use multimedia to encourage and develop social interactive skills in a young subject who has Asperger's Syndrome.
Anthony Forder
Both children became so engrossed in the virtual world that they readily tracked the car, moved toward it, and named objects and colors to the best of their abilities when prompted. Shannon eventually moved to the stop sign and stopped.
Many programs designed for children with autism recommend exercises that focus on auditory listening skills utilizing environmental sounds. Nouns and Sounds provides the opportunity to develop essential skills in a highly motivating environment.
Valerie Herskowitz
JavaScript-scored questionnaire
Center for Online Addiction
Many children with ASD have a natural affinity and comfort level with computers. When using computers there are no social expectations and there are consistent routines that are presented in a predictable environment. This pilot project with children with ASD attempted to create a learning environment that bridged the gap between the non-social computer and the human-like, consistent interactions of the animated talking head, Baldi.
Ronald Cole et al
A remedial and special education computer consulting firm assisting parents, clinicians, administrators, and practitioners to apply appropriate computer technology to the learning needs of special learners.
Charles Hedbring
Reactive Colours© provides an engaging, accessible computer environment for spontaneous imaginative play and learning, in which even the most anxious autistic individuals may relax and communicate. As an Internet based research project Reactive Colours© aims to provide a software interface through which individuals with autistic spectrum differences and learning disabilities can be encouraged to use computers, and through which they can develop mouse, keyboard, programming and screen skills. The creators of this open source network seek users on the autism spectrum of all ages, and welcome their collaboration.The Reactive Colours research project has been awarded funding from the NESTA Learning Programme ( and Cardiff School of Art and Design.
Wendy Keay-Bright, Ben Norris, Alun Owen, Dinah Murray, Glynis Thomas, Vaughan Bell, Sebastian Dern
The purpose of this registry is to provide a way for people who are working with autistic children who love computers to find each other. To add/delete/modify your entry to the registry, please send email to with ALL the information listed below.
Jill Fain Lehman, Senior Research Scientist (Adjunct), School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Discusses how you can use the Linguistic Hierarchy to identify the linguistic functioning level of a client, establish appropriate inter-vention goals, and choose intervention software.
Mary Sweig Wilson
An innovative model for professional development
Supports professionals, parents, and computer-users in their efforts to use technology to improve our schools and to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.
Implementation of computer learning in our children's' lives is an extremely effective method for teaching language and academic skills as well as for developing the abilities needed to live in this computer-oriented society.
Valerie Herskowitz
We are interested in ubiquitous computing and the research issues involved in building and evaluating ubicomp applications that impact our everyday lives.
Georgia Tech
Many hackers have noticed that mainstream culture has shown a tendency to pathologise and medicalise normal variations in personality, especially those variations that make life more complicated for authority figures and conformists.
Christian Fotinger
Tony is an able visual learner but with very little language so we deliberately chose software where it was necessary for Tony to listen in order to respond to the computer.
Select GIF's that are motivating to the child, and select educational goals that are age appropriate and functional. One could use a time delay procedure to enhance spontaneity in communication.
Results suggested the greater effectiveness of VSM within the Asperger's Disorder group, and equal effectiveness in the HFA group. Videotaped self-modeling evoked improved sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem within the two higher-functioning groups.
Grace A. McDowell-Boyer
This paper presents research concerning a novel virtual learning environment designed to help children with autism develop empathic understanding useful to them in the real world, including emotional recognition and predicting others' thoughts. The system is based on accepted autism-specific pedagogy, specifically 'social stories' and seeks to provide realistic learning scenarios.
Yufang Cheng, David Moore, Paul McGrath
Autism and attention disorders involve abnormal stimulus response to the external world. Virtual reality offers the potential to regulate an artificial computer environment to better match the expectations and needs of individuals with these problems.
Dorothy Strickland
If home is where the heart is, then home for a dozen people with Asperger Syndrome could be a 16-acre island blessed with lush gardens and rolling green hills. The island is called "Brigadoon," but unlike its literary namesake, this place is real -- or real enough in a 21st century way. "Brigadoon" belongs to a public virtual world called "Second Life," a popular online 3-D environment frequented by tens of thousands of users.
Tom Loftus, MSNBC
A variety of computer experiences may be associated with higher efficacy and lower test anxiety. All in all, we think the results of these various projects vindicate the time we spend at the keyboard!
John Mueller, Michelle Jacobsen
For people with disabilities, cyberspace is pretty much the same kind of place it is for people without disabilities. The most appealing feature of cyberspace for people with disabilities might well be its accessibility.
Marie Deatherage

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This page was last updated on 5 November 2008, 3:48 pm
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