How tech can help children with autism

The University of Bath partners with FutureLearn to broaden understanding of how technology can support children with autism

FutureLearn and the University of Bath have announced a partnership with the launch of a new course.  The course, Smart-ASD: Matching autistic people with technology resources is open for enrolment and explores how children with autism can be supported by digital resources and technology.

According to the National Autistic Society, autism is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – more than 1 in 100. The charity suggests without greater public understanding, autistic people and their families are at risk of being isolated in society.

The course is free and designed to equip learners with an understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual Disability (ID) and explore how technology resources can be used to support this group. 

The start of the course is coinciding with World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April 2017 and aims to increase understanding of how children with autism can be best supported. As well as increasing overall awareness, the course further aims to provide detailed knowledge of the subject and provide solutions and advice for those working closely with children with ASD and ID. The course introduces learners to the free SMART-ASD app, helping teachers and parents to assess the needs of autistic children and identify the most suitable technology to assist their individual requirements.

The course will cover the following areas:

●          What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual (or learning) Disability (ID)?
●          How can technology best support children with ASD and ID?
●          How to choose the most appropriate technology to support children with ASD and ID.
●          SMART-ASD: Matching autistic people with technology – how recommendations can be made, specific to each child.

Professor Mark Brosnan, Director of the Centre for Applied Autism Research, University of Bath, commented: “The online course is ideal for anyone who has a family member with autism or works with someone with autism – whatever the level of prior experience. The issue today is not the lack of digital technologies offering support for autistic people, but how to find the best match between the person’s needs and capabilities with the available technological solutions. As a colleague with an autistic daughter said ‘a child with autism only has one childhood’, which highlights the need to identify the most appropriate technologies for each child. The project is an international collaboration with researcher Gerardo Herrera from the University of Valencia being funded by ERASMUS+ and will be made available in more languages in the near future.”

Nigel Smith, Head of Content at FutureLearn, said: “We’re very proud to be working with the University of Bath on such an important initiative. There is increasing research and interest about how technology can help individuals with autism so we’re delighted to provide the technology platform to help carers, teachers, and parents to find out about this latest thinking, to learn how to recognise the signs of autism and to get advice and insights about the solutions out there. And we also hope that the social element of our platform creates a supportive environment where learners can share and learn from each other’s experiences.”

As with all FutureLearn courses, the course can be taken for free or there is the option to upgrade for £69 to get extra benefits.

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