Internet resources for special needs educators (this week, Autism & PDD)

by Kelly Walsh on July 27, 2009

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Second post in a series on Internet resources for educators that work with special needs students

Last week I started this series of posts by researching web based tools and resources for teachers who work with students with ADD & ADHD. This week we continue this series with a look into resources specifically geared towards helping educators that work with Autistic students, and those faced with similar disorders such as PDD and Fragile X Syndrome.  


Web Based Tools and online Communities
I located a number of web based tools designed to assist young people with Autism, PDD, or related disorders, or to help those challenged with instructing these students (if any readers know of other such tools, please comment and let us know about them!). I also provide some information about online communities with resources and information for educators that work with these disorders.

iSocial 3D Virtual Learning environment: I’m taking the easy way out here and quoting directly from the web site, “iSocial is a three dimensional virtual learning environment, developed using Sun Microsystem’s Project Wonderland toolkit for creating virtual worlds, for teaching social competence to youth who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).” 

Zac BrowserAgain, per their web site, Zac Browser is software that allows your child to access games (a lot of games) activities (based on diverse interests) along with videos (that allow a stimulating experience and encourages children to talk). All games, activities and videos are specifically chosen for their positive effect on children suffering from autism.”

Do2Learn & Joe Schedule: These applications focus on the use of picture schedules and similar techniques to help Autistic children get through their school work and other challenges. I came across this concept in articles such as this one on eHow.com: http://www.ehow.com/how_2306537_create-picture-schedule-autistic-children.html. The interface in Joe Schedule may lack flash (and the .mov help files may require the download of a player on Vista based computers) but both of these applications look like they may be useful to parents and teachers alike. They both require an inexpensive paid subscription.

Online Communities: There are many online communities available with resources and information on Autism, PDD, Asperger’s and related syndromes and disorders (such as the AutismAwarenessCentre, with this US-specific page providing many resource links), and quite a few of these have areas for teachers (such as the TEACCH program). These types of communities can be a rich source of information and communication. Additionally, there are also more general online communities for teachers who work with students with special needs, such as those noted in this post from last week.

Consumer’s Guide to Technology for Autism: This is a new effort under way, spearheaded by Michael Leventhal, and it is intended to evolve into “a Zagat-format guide …[a] creation of teachers and parents who will field test, evaluate and report on their experiences using specific technology with children on the Spectrum.” Sounds like something that could become quite useful to both teachers and parents. Those interested can visit Michael’s blog at mleventhal.typepad.com to learn more.

Online document resources
There is no shortage of documented information available on the Internet geared towards helping parents and teachers to work with children challenged with Autism and related disorders. Following is just a brief selection of the many articles available through a quick Google search (or other search engine of your choosing):

  • This article by Andy Humphrey provides insight and tips on teaching autistic children.
  • This article focuses on the use of “printables” to assist in teaching Autistic children.
  • This article from a special ed teacher provides 7 strategies for the classroom.
  • This Wikipedia article about the use of “Virtual Environments for AS Students” discusses the use of MMORPG’s (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games) for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, which falls on the high end of Autistic disorders. 

Next
Next week I will continue learning about Internet resources for educators working with special needs students, looking specifically at visual and hearing impairments. In the meanwhile, comments, suggestions, and feedback are welcomed and encouraged, so feel free to share your toughts and experiences about this week’s topic, or any related matters! Thanks.

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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