What should you consider when designing learning content for a person with autism?

As part of #WorldAutismAwarenessWeek, Lead Content Developer at Sensory Guru, Tony Lowry, has shared his top tips for designing interactive content that is suitable for a person with autism.

 

At Sensory Guru we work to create technology that will enhance people’s lives within therapy, education and play.

 

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential – regardless of age, disability, or any other limitations that may be placed upon them.

 

The National Autistic Society (NAS) highlights the tremendous benefits technology can have for people with autism.

 

The NAS says: “When using technology, children on the autism spectrum:

 

  • can learn new skills
  • are often more motivated
  • often show better concentration
  • often initiate more contact with those around them, eg talking to their peers or showing teachers and parents what they have done
  • can be an expert, make choices and direct their own learning and play
  • might find ways to regulate their well-being – watching the same YouTube clip over and over might seem pointless, but it might be helping your child to manage their anxiety or just relax”

 

The Magic Carpet provides an accessible learning platform for people with autism. When designing content for the Magic Carpet we kept the following considerations in mind:

 

Visual thinkers

 

Research has shown that presenting information visually helps students with autism process and retain information more reliably.

 

This is because may people with autism are visual thinkers – they need to see the concept being discussed.

 

Magic Carpet works by immersing learners in the subject being taught. It uses visual representations of the concepts being discussed to make learning more concrete and accessible.

 

For example, children with autism can find maths problems a lot easier if images are involved – i.e two cars, plus three cars, can be logically depicted with images of five physical cars.

 

Communication

 

For visual learners, the incorporation of signs and pictures, known as picture communication symbols (PCS) into applications, can also help to develop communication skills.

 

A child with autism who is non-verbal, may use a PCS to express themselves and make choices. For example, by choosing the symbol that looks like the object they are representing, e.g. a house shape for home, an arrow meaning go, or by choosing a thumb down symbol following an activity to show they didn’t enjoy it.

 

PCS have been incorporated into Magic Carpet applications. Facilitators can also make their own applications that incorporate PCS to develop communication skills.

 

Products like Magic Carpet are also designed to be used by more than one person at a time. This provides opportunities for participants to initiate contact with those around them, which can help to develop their communication skills, as participants begin to interact with their peers.

 

Sequential learning

 

People with autism generally learn best when using structure and routines.

 

While a large majority of people learn through trial and error to master new skills – i.e they attempt an activity and adapt their performance based on feedback, which enables them to learn from their mistakes.

 

A person with autism is driven by routine. This means that if they learn something incorrectly it can become part of their routine.

 

Magic Carpet applications incorporate sequential learning so that students with autism can learn new skills, routines and activities the correct way from the first time. For example, they may be guided through the steps to make a cup of tea!

 

The learning sequences are kept short so that they do not overwhelm and can be repeated until the process becomes habitual. These skills can then be generalised away from the Magic Carpet.

 

Personalisation – user generated content is key!

 

Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, such as trains, cars, or favourite characters.

 

Sensory Guru products all come with easy app makers, which enables facilitators to create their own applications that incorporate a participant’s particular interests.

 

Through this, the interest becomes a motivational tool to enhance learning.

 

Scalability

 

Magic Carpet enables an infinite number of sensory experiences to be created that can be tailored to suit the sensory thresholds of participants.

 

This helps to ensure that participants do not become overwhelmed. For example, sound can be turned down or off and applications can be selected that are free from visual clutter.

 


 

Did you know that according to the NAS, 63% of children on the autism spectrum are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them?

 

Let’s help to raise awareness of neurodiversity and create a more understanding and inclusive society!

 

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