Technology Lending a Helping Hand to Autistic Children

For children with autism spectrum disorder, math problems become a lot easier if they involve pictures. Addition sums, for example, can become more meaningful if both the equation and the answer are accompanied by pictures that represent the math in progress. Three candies plus two candies can be illustrated with five candies. Representing each question with a visual example makes learning easier and more tangible. And that’s exactly what “Math on the Farm” does.

The team of developers for the “Math on the Farm” app have first-hand experience working with children with autism as specialist therapists and educators, and were therefore inspired to do something for such children. They’ve also come up with an app “Just Match,” which teaches object sorting, number matching and other skills, using methods that resonate with children with autism.

Private educators Karen Edwards and Patricia Graf have been teaching children with autism spectrum disorder for several years now. They noticed a significant disconnect in communication between these children. The majority of children’s families had iPads and tablets, but none of them had a proper app that effectively taught children the lessons they needed to learn. The percentage of children with autism spectrum disorder has increased in the two decades that Karen and Patricia have spent in the field.

In fact, Patricia’s younger brother was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of five and she knows how difficult it can be to raise an autistic child. Her family came from a small town in Ohio and did not have the resources to support her brother’s special education needs.

One in 68 children today has an autism spectrum disorder. The rate has risen more than 600% in just the past two decades. However, services and resources have failed to keep pace with the increasing numbers of children with autism. The lack of specialists in children with autism creates a waiting time for diagnosis and treatment from at least two months to one year. Even if a family with children with autism can benefit from the services, treatment can be very expensive. Most recognized interventions are based on 40 hours per week of strict one-on-one therapy.

For the “Math on the Farm” and “Just Match” developer team, the numbers were simply unacceptable. They felt that access to life-changing resources such as apps for children with autism should be available and affordable. Families of children with autism should not search in the dark for appropriate technology. They are developing technology that incorporates the best autism strategies, increasing the availability of applications and reducing the cost.