Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boston Children's Hospital, The Big Tree: Innovative use of digital media technology to support communication skills

In the Autism Language Program at Boston's Children's hospital, therapists are using visual and multimedia methods of instruction, supported by technology. The program uses observational and two-way observational learning strategies to teach more complex concepts and skills.

Information from the Children's Hospital research and development web page describes research that supports the use of technology with children who have autism spectrum disorders:

"Our clinical observations have revealed that children on the spectrum are interested in all forms of electronic media. We conducted an extensive survey to quantify this observation. We surveyed 90 families of children (age 3-15) with autism from the Midwest and the east coast.

Partial results of the survey:

Children had extensive computer, television and video interest.
Animated characters were more interesting than human figures.
Majority of the children spend more time with media than they do with all other forms of play combined.

These findings are helping us discover ways to use animated characters as therapeutic tools to help children learn language."

The Big Tree is a website that includes information about "Multimedia Advocacy", the "use of multimedia to have a voice". This is especially important for young people who have communication disorders or other disabilities as they transition to adult life.

"Multimedia advocacy is process driven using a camera, video and computer in work with people who have learning disabilities has value as a process of assisted communication in its own right. Taking a person-centred approach so that service users are involved takes time. Multimedia advocacy provides valuable tools that allow those with communication difficulties ownership of their plans and records, rather like having ´an accessible filing cabinet´ that helps to shift the power relationships entailed in supporting people around and getting the focus onto the individual and placing them at the centre."

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