Special Educational Needs: On the Spectrum

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This is the third and last episode of a series writen by Barbora Holkova, Educational Consultat at Kolibri Education

Pictograms have been a popular tool in early childhood and primary education for decades. We use them to indicate steps of daily routine or to represent units when learning to count. However, pictograms can play a much more substantial role for autistic children. Why? “For many children with special needs and challenges, particularly those with an autism spectrum disorder, the world that surrounds them seems like a series of abstract structures, of nuances that aredifficult to understand.” Unlike abstract concepts, pictograms are visual, concrete and easily recognizable. In cases of children who are non-verbal or with limited language skills, pictograms can serve as a means of communication to indicate their needs, thoughts and feelings.

At Smile and Learn, Beatriz Martos and the educational team opened the door to collaboration with parents and teachers of children on the autistic spectrum. The team listened to their feedback, ideas and concerns, and incorporated them into the application. The result is a literacy section called Learning with Alex. It depicts everyday social situations that can be stressful or uncomfortable for children with ASD. Children follow Alex as he goes through each situation and learn to handle it with him. For example, Alex goes to the hairdresser and we read “He picks up the scissors and starts to cut Alex’s hair. Then he dries his hair with a hairdryer. It’s noisy. Alex takes a deep breath and calms down.”

 

Similarly, children follow Alex to the hospital to get his injections and to a noisy birthday party. Learning with Alex provides practice situations for children with ASD to learn from in a safe environment. Despite a large number of meaningful applications and other tech solutions, the journey for children with learning disabilities and their teachers is not over yet. At this very moment, new technologies, such as augmented reality are being used to provide valuable learning opportunities and relevant content. The future will hopefully bring educational systems that are adaptive, caring and inclusive of those who need it the most.

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