Hacking Autism: Technological Boosts for Kids on the Spectrum

In recent years, the diagnostic rates of Autistic Spectrum Disorders have climbed to an all-time high, with recent estimates as high as 1 in 100 children being diagnosed in the United States. Although there is speculation as to whether this rise is due to changing diagnostic criteria, increased awareness, or an actual increase in prevalence, the numbers have caught the attention of the public. As the mainstream becomes more and more aware of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and how they affect individuals and their families, a range of clinical treatments have become available aiming to increase communication skills and quality of life. One initiative that is drawing attention is Hacking Autism, a technology-focused movement affiliated with Autism Speaks, one of the world’s largest autism advocacy groups. 

Hacking Autism was launched in mid-2011 with the aim of using technological advances to improve the lives of people on the autistic spectrum. The group focuses on the development and dissemination of free software applications with the hopes of “opening up a new world of communication, learning and social possibilities for autistic children.” The mission statement of the initiative states, “Hacking Autism doesn’t seek to cure autism, but rather it aims to facilitate and accelerate technology-based ideas to help give those with autism a voice.”

Although Hacking Autism focuses mainly on software applications, partnerships with other types of technologies hold promising possibilities as well. Recently, Hacking Autism appeared at the NYC Maker Faire partnered with Interbots, showcasing a robotic stuffed animal called Popchilla. Popchilla is designed to help children on the autistic spectrum learn to socially interact with others and better read their emotions. The “digital puppet” is accompanied by an application run on an iPhone and changes its facial expression to exhibit different emotions. The toy is designed to help children transition from success with a touch screen application to interaction in the real world.

Want to learn more about Hacking Autism and some of the available applications for individuals on the autistic spectrum? Check out their website, at http://www.hackingautism.org.

Are you concerned about your child’s speech or language development? At Speech Associates of New York, our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists provide in-home evaluations and therapy. Each of our professionals is trained in the assessment and treatment of a range of pediatric and adult speech, language and communication disorders. Call us today at (212)308-7725 and find out how we can help your child communicate their best!

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