Innovative new technology for autistic learners

As today is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day, we wanted to share some exciting news and useful resources with you.

We spoke to Mike Thrussell, Assistive Technologist at Henshaws College, who explained how Henshaws is supporting autistic learners through an innovative new project…

“Thanks to funding from Jisc, we are working with Thornbeck College (North East Autism Society) to produce two innovative solutions to support autistic learners in sequencing daily routines and work tasks. The idea is that the Day Planner and the Sequence Slider will support learners on the autistic spectrum to enjoy a better College experience.

Mike T Assistive Tech

Day Planner – We’ll be adapting common technologies such as Google Calendar and off-the-shelf mobile solutions to provide a user-friendly solution that can respond to individual student need and is accessible through multiple assistive technologies. Support staff and parents will also be able to access the planner remotely to update routines if needed. This will make sure students have a consistent method and time to deal with change and unfamiliar routines like doctors’ appointments or changes to lesson schedules.

Sequence Slider – Rather than being time focused like the day planner, the sequence slider is task orientated and allows a learner to complete a sequence of tasks or travel routines in their own time independently.

We will essentially be using a tablet device for each learner that displays an easy to understand calendar. It’s fantastic to be involved with both of these projects as they have many benefits both for our students and the wider community:

  • Lower anxiety for learners, supporting them to be ready to learn
  • Greater independence in accomplishing tasks leading to a better college experience
  • Increased time management skills to support employability skills.

One of the most exciting things about both projects is that we’ll be sharing them within the specialist and mainstream further education sectors and the code will be open-sourced so anyone can adapt the technology to meet their own needs.

We’ll be working on these resources over the next year, hopefully releasing them by summer 2015 so please listen out for more information.”

Did you know?

  • There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism
  • More boys than girls are diagnosed with autism
  • One in three students at Henshaws College is on the autistic spectrum
  • Our specialist staff have many years of experience in supporting learners with autism
  • New developments include the opening of a dedicated autism Centre on campus in 2015.

Visit the World Autism Awareness Day website for lots of useful resources including information leaflets and a “100 day kit” designed to help parents in the 100 days following a child’s diagnosis with autism.

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