A Community thrives and blossoms, if it has a good education system. The quality of education in any country is always dictated by, the expertise that implements the curriculum. A properly trained teacher should be able to understand the individual differences of his/her learners in order, to cater for each pupil’s special needs. Every class has got a variety of learners, who need special methods of instruction for them to understand. A standard class is composed of normal learners, but within normal, class there’s, quite a number of outstanding learners. These are learners who deviate from the normal or average pupil physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially to, a level where, they cannot benefit from, regular classroom setup. Therefore, changing of school practice to introduce aspects of special education is unavoidable. A properly, modified class ensures that, the greatest academic potential of learners, suffering from autism is fully realized.
Learners who suffer from autism are just but, among the exceptional learners in a normal class. Autism is a neurological brain disorder in a human being that is characterized by impaired social interaction problems, with both verbal and non verbal communication, and lastly severely limited activities and interest. Learners, who suffer from autism, need special teaching methods, and equipments that support to realize, their maximum potential. The silence which emanates from, speechlessness is not good. Bob Williams (2000:56-67), communication is just like, fundamental human rights. Students who suffer from Autism can only be assisted to communicate if, sustainable use of computer and assisted technologies will be put to use. Computers and assisted technologies, help support teachers, as well as students to implement all learning styles. Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or product, which is used to advance, sustain, or improve the functional abilities of the learner, with special needs.
Intensive experimentation has shown that engaging, assistive technology (AT) is useful for a student with this exceptionality. Assistive devices come in different forms they can be electronic or not. Besides, Assistive devices are either in the form of low or high technology.
The low technology assistive technology, strategies are not electronic in nature. They are locally made; hence they don’t require electrical powering. Most of low technology devices are inexpensive to obtain and maintain. They include dry erase boards; clipboards laminated photographs, three ring binders and Pecs. This method can be used to promote, and enhance, expressive and flexible communication skills among the learners with autism.
High technology strategies involve, the most complex, expensive equipments such as the computer, and adaptive equipment, which requires a lot of money to obtain and maintain. Examples of these, equipments are, touch screen, software and track balls, besides that, subsidiary equipments are involved (digital cameras and scanners.); video cameras and public address systems. The low and high technology strategies, should be implemented everywhere, because they help, improve the functional capacity of autistic learners. Struggling to Accommodate, visual needs of, autism spectrum condition is very important for educational development. Learners, who suffer from this condition, exhibit unique, learning differences, including being very visible thinkers, Visual supports, along with existing precise language can assist the learner to understand instructional material. They may also offer serious cues about what is expected of them next, in terms of behavior and independent work. (Adams, J. 1997:45-67).
OVER HEAD PROJECTOR
An overhead projector is, very helpful in assisting, learners with high-functioning autism, to process audio data, which they can conceptualize when presented in visual form. Quite often learners with this condition, finds it difficult to write while at the same time conceptualizing what the teacher is saying. Therefore, the teacher should use the overhead projector to; highlight the important points covered in class.
A computer is also an essential tool, of assistive technology. Learners with autism are motivated by sameness and predictability which a computer provides. A computer puts the leaner at the heart of learning alongside, independent functioning. Surveys carried out indicate that, learners with, autism who are accessed to the computer, receive increased attention spans. They can concentrate in one place for a long time, have improved motor skills and can remember all that was learned at school. In addition, a computer can be provided, to the learner, to get the notes electronically instead of using paper and pencil.
Some children benefit, from getting used to a computer with, certain peripheral devices that make using a computer to be easy and enjoyable. Here, are examples of periphery devices: A touch screen is an easy to use. It allows the child to hit the screen of the computer instead of the computer mouse. With a touch screen, the child’s actions cause changes which increase the child’s conviction and effect.
Big keys keyboard, is a different alphabet keyboard, with keys designed with children in mind. The keys are one inch square which makes it easier for the leaner to find letters.
Intensive eye supports should be used to guide learners with autism. In optical communication system, graphics and other visual representatives of objects like models and diorama are used in place of words. The same pictures and signs should be used both at home and school for consistency. Furthermore, the communication is two way. Visual program makes use of signs daily. The symbols are placed, in a row in order of occurrence. The aim of the, schedule is to prepare learners to predict, what will happen next, alongside reassuring them of the stability of daily routines. David, Mitchell (i987:205-210).
Laid down guide lines and written hints is very crucial resources for students with autism. They quite often lose focus, hence easily susceptible to losing direction. The written guidelines must not be in more than, three statements because, they might be difficult to comprehend. Fine motor skills are also sometimes deficient in students with autism. Optical signals are often an effective means of interfacing. Students, affected by autism line of disorders are likely to have trouble with supposed meanings and will need more précised literal hints. However, many visual signals are a basic way of providing guidance, without a spoken word. Visual literacy can also increase oral communications.
Peer learning model is the most fundamental visual help to use. The peer model, involves a full time student at duty, whose station of operation, can close or adjacent to a learner suffering from, autism. They are not a peer tutor, though, learners suffering from this disorder, often, respond to their surroundings to seek for optical signals, they confused about what to do.
Computer assisted teaching and learning process is an instrumental way of, offering optical supports. Children with autism feel more secure when, interacting with computers than with people. This method should be applied because; Students may be far more engaged in learning, when it is provided through vision computer-based programs.
A computer with its application is very fundamental in, teaching learners, with severe autism. The most affected are those who experience difficulties when applying psychomotor skills, like writing on the paper. Such students can be offered a computer during an examination to record his or her answers. These answers are important tools of research, as they signify understanding, rather than, having them compete with the task of the handwriting, Colby, K. M. (1973:30-32).
For children, Academic computer soft-wares can be used to demonstrate some of those pre-educational skills like reading or math skills in a more fun way.
Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI): The use of computers to “improve decoding skills and phonetic knowledge of students with reading disabilities” Walter, Samuel (2001:34).
Nonverbal Reading Approach (NRA): “Students are taught a meta-cognitive strategy using internal speech for decoding words. The NRA contains elements such as logical sequencing,drill-repetition-practice-feedback, teacher models, and systematic probes”. (ibid: 37).
In situations where autism learners, have very little interest in the computer, an interactive white board (IWB) can be used. Research indicates that multimedia content, displayed on this board is more engaging than what is viewed on computer with a narrow display.
The interesting, part of it is that, learners with little interest in computers, find it interesting staring, on the IWBs. Students who have automatic reinforcement to modulus behavior that tempers with, the ability to engage in normal activities don't seem to indicate this arrangement, nearly as much when the focus is on the IWB( ibid:36-37) In my opinion, IWBs are great tools for teaching children who suffer from severe, autism line of disorder.
Teaching learners with this condition succeeds if; short video clips are incorporated in the learning environment. They, promote the reduction of levels of anxiety, repetitive behavior and anxiety amongst learners suffering from autism.
Computer and assistive technology are very important in assisting learners suffering from autism; to shape their behavior. Adaptive equipment for computer service has also played a key role, in streamlining, extreme behaviors such as, agitation, uncontrollable repetition, and self conditioning behaviors. Owing to the fundamental importance, that computers provide, they should be part and parcel of the, special education curriculum, Peter, S and Adrianne F (2007:78-100).
The low tech assistive technology is very fundamental in giving the child suffering from autism behavior visual information following guidelines. Visual information enhances comprehension of the learner concerning expected behavior. Visual directions assist learners to get, sustain and focus their attention as well as ensuring they get full instructions hence increasing independent skills.
The dry erase white board or contact paper white board is among the assistive technology that aids learners with autism to shape their behavior. The audio directions are drawn to guide learners. An example of audio drawn directions is sequential step directions for tasks /activities. An example of these activities is like Brushing teeth, making lunch, folding towels homework directions among others.
Morning arrival direction card can be prepared by drawing necessary directions that assist them to complete visual list of instructions before beginning of the day. A laminated card is used in this exercise. A string attached card is to be located near the leaner’s bag, hook. After hanging up his/her bag, she/he can take the card to begin morning guidelines. The learner is supposed to verify every item upon completion. (E.g. put text books in the locker, put lunch box in the cold box, put direction card away and then sit at the desk.
Some activities do not signal the beginning and the end of a process. A good example is computer games usually disturb learners suffering from autism. In such like circumstances cards correctly labeled should be used to signal the beginning, almost the end. The color of these cards is very important. When the activity begins a green flash card may be put near the learner when the activity ends a green one is put near the learner.
Drawing of rules makes the learner aware of what is expected of them in terms of good behavior, as well as the actions that are permitted by the rules. Besides, the drawn rules help to improve the learners’ self-regulation and self management skills without the help of an adult. These can be achieved through picture communication symbols that can be laminated on large index cards, to communicate the following: Sit on chair-PCS with a child sitting on a chair. The message signaling learners to be quiet make use PCS with face picture with a finger onto its lips indicating silence.
Schedules can also be drawn to increase comprehension of the learner so as to reduce the occurrence of Un-desired behavior. A visual calendar is drawn which can help the learner to remember. If, a leaner is used to visit the swimming pool on Tuesdays and on a given day the swimming pool is closed a no message is put on Tuesday.
It is very clear that resources to educate learners suffering from autism are so many. They range from high tech and low tech assistive technology. Besides, the low tech materials are the most used, therefore, they should be easily accessible to every teacher when teaching learners with autism. The learners suffering from autism should not be demonized but instead should be demystified. If, they are put under conducive learning environment, they can cope up and perform just like average learners.
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- Peter Sturmey and Adrienne Fitzer, Autism spectrum disorders: applied behavior analysis. (2007), University of Virginia
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- Adams, J. I.: More Creative Ideas. (1997) Adams Publications; Kent Bridge, Ontario, Canada.
- David, Mitchell, What works in special and inclusive education: using evidence-based teaching strategies (1987) Publisher Taylor.
- Walter Samuel, autism management (2001) longhorn publishers.
- Adams j, strategies for students with autism (1997) penguin publishers.