In partnership with Autism-Europe, the project “Autism and New Technologies” comes to an end and provides an evaluation of the use of new technologies for children on the autism spectrum. Led by the Foundation of Applied Disability Research (FIRAH) and supported by the Orange Fondation and the UEFA Fondation, the project facilitates access to educational material and equipment derived from new technologies, and adapted to the specific needs of autistic children and their families, such as robots or tablets.
The programme, launched in 2016, is the fruit of a close collaboration between several European partners from six different countries (Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and Switzerland), including Autism-Europe members’ the National Autistic Society and the Autism Luxembourg Foundation and universities and research centers. It focused on the use of new technologies among autistic children and youngsters aged 2-18.
The project has three major themes:
- Improve access to educational material and equipment developed with new technologies and adapted to the specific needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families, such as robots or tablets.
- Increase awareness and train families and professionals on how to best support autistic children in their use of new technologies. Training tools are available online to families and professionals.
- Design and carry out applied research projects on the needs and expectations of children and youngsters on the spectrum and their families, and provide concrete answers for their daily needs. This means evaluating the impact of the use of new technologies, to improve available material and applications. The approach is participatory, involving the children and youngsters, parents and professionals working alongside the researchers.
As a result, practical tools have been developed and are made available to the wider public. The language is appropriate for a non-scientific public. The emphasis is laid on the usefulness for users: autistic persons, families, professionals, etc.
Project outputs and educational materials
Online questionnaires were given to autistic children and adolescents, as well as parents and professional supporting the autistic children or adolescents in their use of new technologies. The questionnaires aimed at gathering feedback on their use of new technologies. Read here the Inter-country report: Feedback on digital use by parents, professionals and children on the autism spectrum.
A concrete and pragmatic educational tool is already available. The tool was developed on the basis of questionnaire responses, and presents tips used by parents and professionals to address difficulties encountered by autistic children when using new technologies.
A literature review was also carried out in the context of this project. The objective of this literature review is to assess current applied research concerning the use of digital tools assisting persons on the autism spectrum with non-verbal communication and social interaction .
In September 2019, “Editions h”, a partnership between FIRAH and the CCAH (National Committee for the Coordination of Disability Action), released a booklet aiming at assessing knowledge on the use of new technologies in helping autistic people with non-verbal communication and social interactions.
This booklet contains:
- a summary of the literature review, including a selection of researches chosen on the basis of their relevance in terms of providing practical solutions;
- a summary sheet of key outcomes from the literature review;
- and some additional resources to help answer the questions raised by the theme of autism and new technologies.
In the framework of the project, the National Autistic Society held the Conference “Autism and Technology” in September 2018 aiming at bringing together researchers and relevant stakeholders to share knowledge and practice.