Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Using a ZAC's Browser to Provide Social Interaction

Guest Blog by: Joanna Rien,
UMD Graduate Student

This video clip is of a child and his play partner reading an e-book on ZAC’s browser about a train and animals. As you’ll see, the activity is repetitive and cyclical in nature (client does something, play partner does something, computer does something, and repeat). The use of the concrete animals provides the client with the opportunity to connect what he is seeing on the computer to something that is happening in real-life. This activity is also useful in that it allows the client to complete MOST of it independently (watching the video and communicating on the Augmentative Communication Device saying “go”, “turn page”); however, he still needs a play partner to hit a button on the computer to turn the page and provide the animals. Each person has an important role in this activity.

Many of us use the computer as an opportunity to escape interaction with others, if only for a few minutes, whether it’s to check our email or play games. For children with autism, this is not the ideal. ZAC’s (Zone for Autistic Children) Browser is an educational website created for young children with autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and asperger syndrome. It allows time for the child to use and learn the computer in a safe manner, however if used by a young child independently, the child is apt to learn that he or she can escape social interaction very happily this way. If more interaction with others is the goal, and it is, then ZAC’s browser can be used but the way one uses it should be carefully thought out. If used appropriately and with intention to increase socialization, ZAC’s browser can be utilized to increase communication and interactions with others. You can see one way that this was accomplished in this clip.

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