31 July 2012
Pune: Taking advantage of the fact that students with autism are good at using technology, including computers and mobile, the city–headquartered Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) is developing an e–learning tool for these children.
The tool has loads of animated lessons supported by sounds and music, multimedia characters and colourful presentations, which promise to engage students with autism in the learning lessons.
Besides, it will also help assess and evaluate the student’s progress and customise his profile as per his learning needs.
Educators at special schools will also be able to develop student–specific courses or lessons useful for one particular student.
For example, an educator at a special school can fix a time period for a student with autism to complete an English vocabulary exercise. The student will have to complete usage of particular words in sentences in a fixed timeframe. The duration and the exercise will be updated in the tool developed by the CDAC and the student will be asked to complete it during the school hours. The words in the tool will appear in animated form with multimedia examples to make the exercise interesting.
Sarat Chandra Babu, chief investigator of this project, said, "After a brief survey, we observed that students with autism are good with technology. Hence, we decided to give technology in their hands and use it as they would like. The project is still in a nascent stage as we have developed about three to four modules and are conducting trials in special schools.
Babu said depending on the feedback, the C–DAC will make changes and in next six months, the entire software tool will be developed. Once the tool is completely ready to use, it will be given for free to special schools across India.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that typically occurs in the first three years of life. It causes impairment or disturbance in three main areas – social skills, communicative (verbal as well as non–verbal) skills and in their repetitive and restricted behaviours. Among its symptoms, poor eye contact, lack of or weak speech, poor communication skills and repetition of actions like spinning and rocking are observed.
Meeta Jain, a special educator, said, "Students with autism often avoid eye contact and when we teach them, they usually do not watch our expressions. They are not very good at communicating as well. Hence, I believe if technology can fill in this gap they will feel better about learning on machines. Then, I think, it will be of great use to such students."