Autism is a lifelong neurological disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. Although there are no two kids who share a similar spectrum of symptoms, children diagnosed with Autism generally have the following difficulties:
- speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
- repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent
- clumsiness, abnormal posture, or unusual ways of moving
- delay in speech or complete lack of thereof
- inability to focus
- abnormal sensitivity or tolerance to noise or pain
- limited symbolic or abstract thinking
- repetitive body movements
- hard transitioning from one task to another
- poor or lack of understanding of social cues
The rate with which Autism has been affecting children and young adults is staggering.
According to Statista, over 760,000 young adults and children in the U.S. live with the disorder. Autism is primarily diagnosed in the adolescent population, specifically Non-Hispanic white male children.
Autism is not a learning disability, but it creates one and co-exists with multiple other conditions that affect a child’s comprehension, focus and attention, coordination, speech, speed of reaction, and many more functionalities that normally developing children possess naturally.
If Autism may not look too bad in babies and toddlers, it becomes less adorable when they become physically stronger and even bigger than the parent. Severely affected children may require prescription drugs to keep their behavior under control. Autism is the second in the prevalence of chronic absenteeism in school-aged students and depression/anxiety counseling in college students.
Based on the charts below, the economic burden posed by Autism Spectrum Disorder will almost double by 2025. The therapeutics market created to help/assist individuals with Autism is steadily growing and is forecasted to bypass mark of 4.6 billion dollars in services and products worldwide by 2026. Autism generates a new job market with applied behavior analysis agencies popping up left and right.
One conclusion that I take away from all these charts is that Autism is here to stay for a long time. The question is, “Should we seek a cure, or should we accept the neurodiversity?” As a mother of an autistic child, I seek assistance and acceptance of my child, who will eventually turn into an adult seeking employment and a spot in today’s society. He will be “different” for sure, and it is our responsibility to accept the difference and make him and many other individuals alike feel at home.
During my graduate program, I started circulating a survey to get a better idea of the common challenges most autistic children face. My son has a limited speech, poor focus, and subnormal comprehension. I wanted to confirm if my child’s development could be a baseline of what most kids are experiencing. The results did not surprise me at all. They confirmed that most children with Autism struggle to understand, behave, and communicate according to the norms.
If cognitive and behavioral difficulties were on average in the middle of the scale, communication difficulty was closer to the high numbers confirming that verbalization is probably one of the most prevalent challenges of a child with Autism. To help these children verbalize their needs, the market offers a few solutions, such as picture exchanges, home-made picture binders, recorded speech devices, and electronic tablet speech applications. However, most of them are complicated to use: a child must carry a stack of pictures with him/her or needs to understand how to use a device such as a tablet to interact with the application appropriately. Based on the survey data and a few in-person interviews I conducted, my assumption of the need for improved communication was confirmed. Some of my respondents confirmed that training a child to use a tablet or an application can be complicated; therefore, not every child can adopt and benefit from the device. In addition to problematic training, a child must always carry the device – including outside the therapy session or school.
On my next page, I will review technology applications currently available in the market for children with Autism.
Thank you for reading.