Advances in Assistive Communication

Advances in Assistive Communication Technology Continue to Raise the Voice of Non-Verbal Speakers

Talk about a new way to communicate - if we take a look back in history at autism and technology, it is astounding to see the major impact in just the past decade that has happened.

Lenovo’s infographic, The Power of Touch, helps us to understand the progress during the last century. It was just over 100 years ago that the term Autism was coined, and it took about 40 years for doctor’s and therapists to start using ‘assistive technology’ with their clients. In the 1950s that ‘assistive technology’ was not anything like we think today in terms of tablets and computers. Flash cards, toys and chalkboards were used to help children with Autism communicate with those around them.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that speech generating devices emerged that voice was given to the words they structured together. Leap forward another 20 years and the first commercial dynamic display speech generator was available, meaning now that autistic kids could explore more complex ideas and express themselves creatively.

As computers and devices become more mainstream and affordable, more families and individuals were able to access them. In just the past few years, the options for assistive communication technology have exploded with the introduction of AAC apps for tablets and other mobile devices. Particularly useful was the adoption of touch screens to computers and devices allowing for users to touch directly on what they want, rather than having to rely on - and understand - the connection between the computer screen, the mouse, and the cursor. A study in 2011 revealed that people with Autism have enhanced visual detection centres, which helps to explain why visual programs are so helpful and effective.

As technology continues to change and grow, the possibilities are endless on the developments of assistive communication. Apps like TalkingTILES that work with touchscreen and internet technology are the next generation of AAC - combining an effective tool for user’s needs and the ability to remotely connect with therapists is just another beginning of progress of creating better solutions for those in need.

The Power of Touchscreen Technology: A Timeline of the History of Technology in the Treatment of Autism.

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