I was consulting with a teacher of teenagers on the autism spectrum. She emphatically stated, “My students would never use a cell phone.”
Here are some statistics about what is happening in our tech-social world.
- More Kindle books are now sold than “real books”
- 8 out of 10 people now shop online
- 81% of people in the US access social media
- 95% of Americans have a cell phone
- US cell phone users send more texts than they do phone calls
And here is one of the most important statistics
66% of 18-24 year-olds check their Facebook page before they get out of bed in the morning.
What does this have to do with autism?
Social skills training is one of the most requested services for students with autism. Here’s the important question. What social world are we preparing our students for? Who are they going to be socializing with? How do those people socialize?
The social world is changing
Those changes are happening quickly. Technology has rapidly become a major tool for managing social relationships. What percentage of social interaction occurs without people even seeing each other? How does that happen? Phone calls? Text messages? How does the presence of a cell phone affect the interaction between two people who are physically in the same location? What takes precedence – the phone or the person standing next to you? What are the new rules for social interaction?
What do we need to teach?
We know that our students on the autism spectrum frequently need help to learn the communication and behavior skills necessary to handle social situations in positive ways. Parents desire for their children to have friends. So, what do we need to teach our students with ASD to help them “join in” to the ongoing social activity that surrounds them?
It’s not an easy question to answer
First, we need to identify what the new social environment is. There are lots of variables. And there will be lots of individual answers to questions about what to teach. The goal here is not passing a value judgment on the use of technology for social interaction. Instead, it’s an attempt to recognize what is currently occurring and then deciding how to work with it. Are we preparing our students for a social world that existed in the PAST? Are we helping them learn skills that WE want them to have? Or are we looking forward to what skills they will need to have next year? Two years? Five years or more???
It’s more than just social
Our modern technology offers students more than social opportunities. I often write about all the life skills and personal organization that can be supported with technology. Games are a very small percentage of the possibilities if you start exploring what’s available.
How have you addressed this situation?
Please comment. What do you think?
P.S. A college student who used to work for me just had an interview for a summer job. They did the interview on Skype. She applied for the job by filling out an application online. Are you teaching your students the kind of skills to be able to do that?
TOP 60 RECOMMENDED APPS FOR AUTISM lists 60 favorites and a list of several hundred more apps that were recommended by SLPs, parents and teachers of students on the autism spectrum. Apps include social, personal organization, scheduling, choice making and lots more, organized in age groupings, preschool through adult. I frequently hear from people who want to know how or when to “eliminate visual strategies” from students’ lives. That question ends up being very short-sighted. Visual tools can become life long supports. This book is a great place to start to discover the possibilities.