Assistive Technologies and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Assistive Technologies and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Francisco Alcantud (University of Valencia, Spain), Yurena Alonso (University of Valencia, Spain), Javier Coret (University of Valencia, Spain) and Esteban Jiménez (University of Valencia, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8789-9.ch041
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Abstract

This chapter discusses assistive technologies applied in people with autism spectrum disorders and how these technologies promote their adaptation. We analyzed different technological application areas such as detection, assessment, diagnosis, intervention, training, learning, environment control, communication, mobility, and access. In recent years there has been a notable increase of publications and works related to the use of assistive technologies applied to Autism Spectrum Disorders. While most of the publications present novel systems, devices, and applications (smartphones, tablets, robots, avatars, etc.), general evaluation of the results is insufficient. Future lines of research are targeted to realize intelligent environments in order to integrate all knowledge and technological developments made in recent years.
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Background

Cook and Hussey (1995) referred as assistive technologies as the large number of devices, services, strategies, and practices that are designed and implemented to improve the adaptation to the environment of individuals with disabilities.

Other authors as Alcantud (2003) referred assistive technology as any article, equipment, device or system, purchased commercially or designed ad hoc for been adapted to a person, which is used to increase or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities or to modify or introduce behavior, is considered generically as assistive technology. This definition has several components worth analyzing from an epistemological point of view. First, this definition includes sale, modification, and customization of all types of equipment and tools. Second, this definition emphasizes the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. We should note here that functional outcomes are also the real measure of the success of their equipment and utensils. Finally, interventions or treatments must be individual as each technological application is a unique circumstance depending on the nature and degree of disability.

Assistive technologies can be classified as high, medium or low level, as commercial or developed “ad hoc”, and as devices or tools. Depending on the purpose they serve, assistive technologies can be classified as (Cook & Hussey, 1995; Alcantud, 2003):

  • Training and Empowerment Systems: They Include all technology uses aimed to increase the skills of people with disabilities.

  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems: Systems designed for disabled people who cannot use communication with oral-verbal-linguistic code.

  • Technologies for Manipulation and Environment Control: They include robots, assistive devices for handling, electronic systems for environmental control, and so forth. We would also include technologies for the daily life, which will enhance the autonomy level for people with disabilities.

  • Technologies for Personal Mobility: All systems that facilitate personal mobility, both physical (wheelchairs) as cognitive (navigation and guidance systems) technologies are included.

  • Computer Access Technology: They include all systems (both hardware and software) that allow people with disabilities to use conventional computer systems.

Although in most assistive technology classifications the diagnostic section is not considered, in case of autism we believe that technological development has allowed, and probably will allow in the future, a more accurate and early diagnosis. For this reason, we will include this in our review section.

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