We live in an era where technology can solve some of mankind's biggest challenges. From the hospital, to the board room, to the classroom – technology has transformed the efficiency and efficacy of almost every sector. So why haven't we been able to leverage technology to provide more meaningful futures for individuals with autism?
Empowering Individuals with Autism:
I've spent my last twenty years working in the autism field. My career and volunteer life has been consumed with finding ways to empower individuals with autism spectrum disorders. And these twenty years have been filled with equal parts overwhelming hope – and also frustration. The hope has been in the success of children and families. Autism is an extremely hopeful disorder – when all of the pieces fall into place. Some of those pieces are a supportive and trained school district. An empathic and aware community of supporters. Access to evidence based therapies. When these supports are available the world is completely accessible for individuals with autism. There are transformative possibilities for learning, working, and community access. I've seen it countless times throughout my career.
Cynthia was successfully integrated into her mainstream 5th grade math class and made her first friend. Andy was taught how to use a visual schedule and transition without tantrums for the first time after years of challenges. Matthew can now take the train to work – by himself – using a checklist on his phone that his therapist had created. These successes, no matter how large or small, equate to hope. Every accomplishment is hope. And these accomplishments, these hopes, create momentum towards an independent, successful, and meaningful future. Being a small part in so many individuals success has been an inspirational and rewarding journey for me these last twenty years. So if this success is possible for every individual on the autism spectrum, why doesn't it happen more often?
Frustration & Progress:
That is the frustration. The pieces do not fall into place for every family. Sometimes the school does not get it and a student fails to make great progress, or even more sadly, regresses. So often resources are not easily accessible for families. A family living in rural area has to drive 3 hours just to get a diagnosis, and the therapy their child needs is not accessible from a location or financial standpoint.
Enough is enough. Every child with autism deserves to have access to treatment that empowers their futures. It is 2015 and I am tired of going into a school and starting over – having to train an entire staff, create a program from scratch, and monitor progress. It is not sustainable, and not scalable for the tens of thousands of people that need this level of support. There is no excuse for students failing to reach their potential. And that is why I started InfiniTeach.
The idea is this – let's take everything that we know works for individuals with ASD and put it one place. Let's take the collected experiences of researchers, parents, and educators and make them accessible to everyone that can benefit from them. But how do we do it? Technology is one effective way to scale autism success. Technology is the most powerful tool we have to leverage the strengths of autism and provide access to best practice autism strategies for the estimated 1 in 45 children now being diagnosed.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 on how we solve the crisis to meet the needs of individuals with autism.