(Photo Courtesy of Impact Engine Demo Day)
Why is technology the best way to solve this crisis of unmet potential?
The first reason is consistency. Individuals with autism thrive on having a consistent learning environment. With technology, we do not have to worry about the qualifications of a therapist or teacher to provide the best therapeutic program. We can take all of the strategies we know work and technology can provide the consistently and reliably. Technology never misses a day. Technology never has a bad session. This is the reason so many individuals with ASD are drawn to technology – the consistent experience. This consistency provides a sense of stability and reducing axiety, where interaction with the rest of the world can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. So we have a captive audience of individuals with ASD flocking to technology – InfiniTeach simply had to the put the right tools so they can learn doing something they love.
The second reason technology is the right choice is cost in terms of time and money. The cost of therapeutic intervention for a child with ASD is between $40k-$60k per year. Individualized therapies outside of school can cost $100-$200 per hour. It is time to level the playing field. The amount of time you have to drive your child to therapy or the amount of money in your bank account should determine whether your child fails or succeeds. Every child deserves the opportunity to meet their potential. Technology has and will always become more accessible from a cost perspective. Individual resources are no longer a factor determining access to the your child's success in life.
The third reason is technology is critical because of portability and generalization. A therapist comes to the house and leaves. What happens fifteen minutes after he or she is gone and a child with autism starts to feel anxious or upset and needs their therapeutic intervention? What happens when a child leaves school, but they could use fifteen extra minutes to practice that math lesson? Technology is always with us. Have you ever lost your phone? There is a feeling of dread of not having access to your calendar, contacts, and everything else that helps you get through the day. By using technology as a therapeutic tool, a child always has access to the supports they need, regardless of where they are. And we do not worry about skills getting stuck at school or in the basement at home. An individual with ASD can practice as easily in a restaurant as at a grandparents house.
Technology – A Tool to Build A Future for Every Child
This is not to say that we can park a child in front of an iPad for 12 hours a day and expect all the problems in the autism community to disappear. We need to be vigilant in guarding against technology becoming the answer, rather than a tool. You can not build a house without a hammer. But once the trusses are up, the rafters are secured, and you have a beautifully built home, you do not see the hammer that was so critical to the process. But the hammer never disappears completely, it is still there for maintenance to help when a nail is poking out or a picture needs to be hung to beautify a room.
This is exactly how InfiniTeach views technology. It is a tool to build a future for every child where they are living, working, and socializing to their fullest and most meaningful potential. And technology will be there as a support throughout life, as a tool, whenever a problems needs to be fixed.
How do we make sure that technology supports, rather than consumes, intervention?
First, by understanding what technology is good at. Technology has a role with boundaries that need to be respected and enforced. Let technology take over where it excels. Tasks like data collection, customization, and adaptive learning are all handled more efficiently through technology.
We also need to understand what people are better at. First off, knowing your child. Parents and teachers are experts on their children. It is impossible to think that technology will know your child better than you. Which means there needs to be a balance – a two sided system to successfully implement technology as an intervention. A system where people can help technology understand a child's interests, strengths, and and challenges, as well as interpret the progress a child is making. Technology by itself will only get us so far. Combining the advantages of technology with the passion of people that care and love our children the most creates possibilities that get me up early in the morning, and make it hard to fall asleep at night.
A Hopeful Reality
A hope can always turn into a reality. A hope that a child will say their first word. A hope that a young adult will live in an apartment independently. InfiniTeach believes in the hope of every parent and child, and will not stop working until have found a way to transform all of that hope into positive outcomes and accomplishments. InfiniTeach does not have all the answers, but we as a community do. We know what works. We know the challenges and what defines success. It is now a matter of building the the tools to make sure we get there.
Enough is enough. It ends today. The world will not miss the greatness of a child's contributions because he or she did not have access to an intervention. A parent will never again have to feel like they are not doing enough for their child. Educators are empowered with the tools to teach every child, no matter how diverse their needs may be. We have taken a stand, and invite you to stand with us.