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Autism & Technology: How Mobile Devices are Helping Autistic Children and Their Families



    According to the CDC, it is estimated that nearly 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism.


    Used as a supplement to specialized therapy, smartphones and tablets are giving a lot of kids with autism new ways to learn, communicate, and further develop their social, cognitive and organizational skills. 


    Kari Sykes, a speech language pathologist with Pediatric Speech Therapy, can attest to how technology has helped her son, Brady.  “The tablet and smartphone have been integral parts of Brady's learning,” says Kari. “Once he started using apps, his vocabulary and academic skills grew exponentially.” 


    Before he began talking, Brady used the Dynavox Compass app on his tablet and it helped him to communicate his wants and needs and decrease frustration.  He also uses the smartphone as a tool to help self-regulate himself. 


    Brady, like a lot of children with autism, has severe sensory processing issues and can become very overwhelmed in a new or over-stimulating environment (such as a restaurant, store or crowded park). In those moments, he uses a smartphone or tablet to play music or watch a video on YouTube to help him block out some of the environmental sounds.  


    “Mobile technology has become a valuable tool for many individuals on the autism spectrum, allowing them to access apps that help advance communication and learning skills.” Says Kimberly Dick, Executive Director for Autism Speaks in Georgia and Tennessee. “Autism Speaks has donated over 4,000 tablets to financially disadvantaged families and individuals since the program began in 2011. We are constantly inspired by testimonials about how this new technology is helping tablet owners across the country.”    


    Music reported to reduce anxiety

    According to the Autism Science Foundation, children with autism are more sensitive to anxiety than the average child, as they are unable to filter out provoking stimuli. A small four-week study, conducted at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 2006, found preliminary success in reducing anxiety in patients with autism through music therapy. After 16 short, 20-minute sessions, during which the treatment patients listened to rhythmic music, the participants who received the therapy appeared to have decreased anxiety-related behaviors.  Classical music or music with a steady rhythm is thought by some to be the best for alleviating anxiety in children with autism due to the predictability of the beat.


    Deezer – one of the most popular music streaming services worldwide – has a playlist for just about every occasion.  Ambient Focus & Study and Essential Mozart, to name a few, are great choices that might help soothe your child during times of anxiety.


    Popular apps for Autistic children

    It is important to note that apps designed for autistic children are not one-size-fits-all. Children often benefit from different apps for a variety of reasons.


    Sensory and Social Skills

    Cognitive Skills

    Organization Skills

    For more info on apps that Autism Speaks recommends for autistic children, please visit https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-apps.


    In addition, Autism Speaks’ Technology Central often hosts free family-friendly webinars focused on technology. Webinars are recorded and available for later viewing. 


    Click here for more information on Deezer.


    Please consult a physician for any questions about diagnosis or treatment of autism.