This past weekend a major Autism Hackathon took place in San Francisco, CA. At least 135 developers, as well as designers and experts of autism came together to focus on programming applications that would help autistic adults who are verging on exciting turning points in life – career, romance, living away from home. Each of these stages in life can be even more anxiety-ridden for those on the autism spectrum.
With the creative use of technology combined with expert feedback, communication hurdles can be overcome. No longer do they need to be experienced as walls that might block autistic people from greater independence.
Up until this most recent Hackathon in San Francisco, which took place during National Autism Awareness Month, prior hackathons had focused mainly on building apps for children. But with the new spark of using technology to advance the potential in autistic individuals, especially in critical areas of communication and nonverbal and emotional intelligence, apps have been built to equip autistic adults with greater means to succeed. Although research is still underway to discover how effective technological solutions truly are in developing the cognitive abilities of autistic people, this certainly has not stopped organizations like Autism Speaks and tech gurus like Apple from forging full force ahead with unique approaches to reach and teach people on the autism spectrum.
In fact, the Apple website has a page dedicated to Special Education which explains all of the built-in features of the Apple products, like the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, that make the Apple products enjoyable and productive for autistic users. Plus, the Apple store already has apps tailored to special needs available for purchase online.
One of the apps from the Autism Hackathon, MyMonitorGlasswear, uses the new technology, Google Glass, to provide feedback to the autistic person about social interactions, such as speaking too loud or not making eye contact. Google Glass is a compact device worn like normal eye glasses that can make phone calls, send text messages, take pictures, conduct web searches, and much more.
The winner of the Autism Hackathon, ViP (Virtual Interactive Practice), built an app that will guide autistic people through various social scenarios using Kinect. Because of Kinect, this app is a game-based, fun approach for autistic users to learn social and nonverbal communication skills in situations like a job interview.
One of the judges of the apps, Lauren Elder from Autism Speaks, says,
“With millions of individuals on the autism spectrum, we simply don’t have the human resources to meet all the need and technology is a key component in filling that gap.”
Hackathons have been a great hub for experts across the board to use technology to meet real human needs for increased connectivity in human relations and enriched community at large.