Published: 02nd April 2020
World Autism Awareness Day: How this Puducherry school uses technology to make learning easier for their students
Chitra Shah of Satya Special School tells us how and why technology can help autistic children in communication and in their daily routine
Chitra Shah, Founder of Satya Special School, Puducherry uses various apps and software to make the process of learning and communication with autistic children in her schools a whole lot easier. Even though there are various therapies that require human-to-human interactions, Chitra says that with more apps being developed to help autistic children, their work has become slightly easier.
"We have a huge tech interface here at the school. Autism is constantly evolving and we have to find ways to work with it especially since the level of autism in each student differs from the other," Shah said. The school widely uses the Awaaz, which is a picture and text-based communication app for students to be able to tell the teacher or their guardian what their needs are and it can also be customised to suit individual students, "Suppose a child wants an idli on a blue plate, they can tell us that by pointing to it on the app. The main issue with autistic children is communication, so if they are able to do it easily with the app, it makes them feel more relaxed as well. Parents who are illiterate or are not aware about how to deal with autism can also use the app," she explained.
The other two apps that the school uses are Blessed Angel and Kavi PTS, both of which help in learning and improving cognitive skills. Chitra says that the apps also help in early intervention. "Kavi PTS helps with scheduling. Autistic children want and need a routine so that they can relax and stay calm and there are no surprises because that leads to mood swings. It helps them with academics as well. One of the modules in these apps is sizes. If we were to keep two objects and say one is small and the other is big, they won't understand the concept. Even teaching concepts like germination by showing a seed and then a plant is not something they can understand. But through the app, they can watch it grow. When they watch it happen, they can grasp the concept better. So, they learn about shapes and sizes and also something like germination through videos," she explained.
Chitra says that these apps are mostly free and easily downloadable, which means that parents can also use it on their phones. "The children use technology in school and then, if they go home and can't use the same to communicate with their parents, it makes things difficult. So, the fact that parents can also use it makes learning consistent which helps the child," she added. While she appreciates that technology is improving in the country, Chitra believes there is a long way to go in comparison to other countries. She also throws light on the need to have these apps in the local language because most children might not even know English and it makes things doubly hard. She also pointed out that lack of awareness and scarcity of human resources continues to cut learning access to most autistic children and technology helps to bridge that gap in some ways.