Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fight Against Autism Goes High Tech

ipod touch

FRIDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- From iPods to robots to avatars, people with autism are increasingly taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies to improve their social skills and, in the process, break the isolation of their condition.

"We use them as a bridge to develop communication skills people with autism don't have, like social referencing [for example, making eye contact]," explained Katharina Boser, president of Individual Differences in Learning of Howard County, Maryland, and co-chair of the Innovative Technology for Autism (ITA) committee at one of the nation's leading autism advocacy groups, Autism Speaks. "There are a range of devices that can support people at different levels," she said.

Several of these technologies were demonstrated recently at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in Philadelphia, which was sponsored by Autism Speaks and the International Society for Autism Research.

Among other things, the very predictability of robots, toys and computer-generated avatars are a low-threat way for autistic children to learn new skills, Boser explained.

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