Web Browsing with Autism


Autism is a neurological disorder that causes sensory issues, which unfortunately affects many people both young and old. Students with autism may have trouble organizing their thoughts, trouble processing sounds and trouble with other motor skills. As you can imagine, trying to navigate the internet may pose several issues for a person who has autism.

One problem for these individuals is the amount of sights and sounds that are present in average web sites and browsers. With so many choices and distractions, it makes it hard for students with autism to navigate the web and find the necessary sites. In addition, basic skills like typing on the keyboard and using the mouse may also be difficult for these individuals. Here are some tools that can be used to make navigating the web and the computer more assessable for students with autism.


Zac Browser


This is a free web browser that was created specifically for kids with autism. This web browser takes up the whole screen, eliminating the task bar at the bottom and the right-click option on the mouse. The browser also comes pre-linked with games and activities that are geared towards autistic students. This browser presents only the information that students need in order to navigate the web. It also allows the student to use the web more independently.



Touch Window

The Touch Windows allow students to touch the screen to make choices instead of using the mouse. This tool works well for students who lack the necessary motor skills used to work the mouse.

Intellikeys


Intellikeys can be used as a keyboard alternative. When hooked up to the computer, it allows a student to navigate by pushing on certain spots on the Intellikey overlay. The overlay can also be changed to accommodate the needs of many different software programs. This program works well for students with limited motor skills.



Trackballs

Trackballs allows the student to move the courser around the screen by rolling a stationary ball. It is said that “Some students with autism can master the mouse operations with a trackball, and eventually transfer to the use of a standard mouse.” (Susan Stokes Autism Consultant) As Susan said, this tool will help students learn how to manipulate a mouse while at the same time working on their fine motor skills.


Sources:

http://www.zacbrowser.com/
http://www.specialed.us/autism/assist/asst10.htm

Autism and SMART Tools


Much of my adult life has been spent working with children with various disabilities. Many children I have worked with have been affected by some type of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some of the most remarkable tools I have used with children who are affected by ASD are SMART Boards, tablets, tables, response pads, and touch screen computers. Five years ago I had a little boy in my Kindergarten class who had Autism. He was non-verbal and had been diagnosed as "low-functioning". As part of a pilot program in our district I had received a SMART Board in my classroom. Shortly after I received the board his Mom emailed me a picture of their home. I pulled it up full screen on the board and watched the student react. He stood up and started talking! He named every room in his house, he named his four siblings rooms by name, told me the name of his cat, dog, and neighbor! His parents were overwhelmed. They bought every gadget available for the board and began a search for an ABA therapist for their son, in order to enhance and supplement his social and academic growth. He is in fourth grade today. He tests at a third grade level. He participated in a school dance this past week and led one of the dances and danced with a couple of the girls in his class. He continues to make great progress and some of the technology tools that have been available to him have made a real difference. Every year since I have had at least one student in my class with a diagnosis somewhere on the spectrum. The SMART tools have made a difference for each one of them. Part of the success I have seen I attribute to the touch feature where a student can tap or write with their fingers. The students are better able to engage and focus with this feature. As a result they are also able to more clearly communicate their work, thoughts, and questions.