Autism and Technology for Independence – A Quick Look at the Research

April is Autism Acceptance Month, organized by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and we’re looking at technology innovations to support people with autism in school, at work, and in the community. Technology such as apps, web tools, and virtual reality can help people who are neurodiverse or on the autism spectrum in many ways: goal setting and time management, learning and practicing job skills, and mastering independent living skills. Here we explore some of the latest NIDILRR-funded research in this area:

SkillTalk: Using Streaming Video for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Build Microskills to Develop and Sustain Relationships for Healthy and Independent Living.

In this Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project, Dfusion, Inc of Scotts Valley, CA is developing and testing SkillTalk, a prototype video-delivered microskills training program to improve relationship skills among transition-age adults between 18 and 28 years with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Microskills such as showing empathy, active listening, and open-ended questioning can help build relationships. This project is in the early development phase.

The Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) – Scaling-Up! This five-year Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) at University of Kansas Medical Center brings OASIS to the broader community. OASIS is a program that uses a Research-to-Practice Outreach Training model to teach parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) how to implement empirically based interventions with their children. During this project, previous NIDILRR-funded OASIS service providers learn how to train others (train-the-trainer) to effectively use the OASIS model to teach parents to improve the child’s level of independence and overall well-being within the community.

Getting Out: Development of a Web-Based Application to Leverage Social Capital and Enable Self-Directed Community Participation for Individuals with Significant Cognitive Disability. This three-year Field Initiated Project at Assistech Systems/Cognitopia of Eugene, OR, develops an innovative web application, Getting Out, that provides a cognitively accessible tool for individuals with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities to help them effectively maintain social relationships established during high school transition, build new relationships, and turn virtual connections with social network members with and without disabilities into real world relationships around activities of common interest and mutual support.

Cognitopia has a suite of self-determination tools developed with support from several NIDILRR-funded SBIR and FIP grants, to help individuals with autism and other developmental or cognitive disabilities live, learn, and work independently. Check out their ready-to-use mobile and web-based tools and learn how individuals with autism are helping to shape their research and development. We also love how Cognitopia integrated COVID-19 information into the MyLife platform to help users with autism learn the importance of staying positive, manage their hygiene, and tap into useful resources on the virus and the pandemic.

I-CONNECT PLUS: Enhancing Community Participation for Adolescents and Adults with ASD Using Online Instruction, Coaching, and Accessible Self-Management Technologies. This recently completed DRRP also at University of Kansas developed a technology-supported instructional system to teach social competence, problem-solving skills, and organizational/self-monitoring skills for adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Now called ASD On The Go, the program is designed to work in a variety of settings. The tools individuals learn can be used in a school setting, a work environment, in the community, and at home. ASD On The Go can be tailored to each individuals’ specific needs and adapted to be used in familiar settings for each individual.

These are just a few examples of technology innovations developed to support people with autism in the community. If you would like to dive deeper, browse through more current and completed NIDILRR-funded projects in this area or explore this search from our REHABDATA database of research literature from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere.

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