Advances in technology have provided educators with an abundance of new tools to use in instruction. This is no exception for teachers educating those on the autism spectrum. From SMART Boards to iPads to the common computer, there are a number of software programs, websites and applications that support the needs of learners with autism.
One particular software program has caught the attention of professionals educating those in the autism community. Vizzle is an innovative, research-based program aimed at supporting the academic, social, and communication needs of learners with autism, as well as supporting the parents and educators of those children.
"This program is about easy sharing and easy data collection," said Pam Homsher, director of communications for Vizzle and parent of a child on the autism spectrum. Teachers and parents can save lessons and visual supports made through the program and access ready-made materials as well. This cuts down tremendously on preparation time.
Homsher pointed out that for children with autism there is often too much extraneous information to process when presented with a lesson from a teacher. Students are able to focus closely on the skill at hand when learning with Vizzle.
Homsher credited the autism educators who collaborate on this project and the availability of customer support with Vizzle's success. Users are able to access updates online, use how-to videos that are embedded in the program, and engage in Vizzle University, online classes that count towards teachers' professional development hours.
Another effective tool in teaching children with autism is video modeling. Model Me Kids is a company that created videos for modeling social skills in a variety of everyday scenarios.
"The videos are a powerful as well as effective tool for teaching social skills because they teach to the visual strengths of children with autism," said Susan Klein, the founder and president of Model Me Kids.
Jacob's Lessons is a popular website established by a father looking to create a fun and interactive program for his young child. His wife, a behavior analyst, found that these activities benefited students with autism with whom she had worked. The site notes that the activities on Jacob's Lessons are meant to be supervised by an adult to support the learner's acquisition of skills. Skills such as gender identification, identifying function of objects, and receptive object identification are all targeted and reinforced through the narrator's verbal praise. Visual cues are used to prompt the learner if he chooses the incorrect answer.
"Special education is ahead of general education in regards to differentiation but farther behind in technology," Homsher said. It seems the playing fields are finally breaking even.