Computer-Aided Instruction Helps Children with Autism Learn Academic Skills
July 14, 2011
By Autism Society
Rebecca (Becky) Byers, a 20-year special education teacher and autism specialist in Carroll County, Md., and Kathryn (Kate) Reinke, a kindergarten teacher at Carney Elementary School in Baltimore, Md., both teach academic and behavioral skills to children with autism using technology.
Both teachers now use a research-based, computer-aided software program, TeachTown Basics®, to aid them in teaching early learning skills. “My friend told me how effective the technology is for teachers and how fun it is for children,” said Byers.
Each day, students in her class happily rush into the media center and sit at their computer station. A whirlwind of activity ensues; then the children settle into a routine. As the hour unfolds, they interact with colorful characters on the computer that teach them basic math, language and behavior skills. They work at their own pace and are more focused and engaged. They learn to tell time, add numbers, identify patterns, say vocabulary words and many other required skills.
Byers’ school used ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) stimulus funds to purchase the software licenses so that the children can use the program at school and at home. The TeachTown curriculum covers six learning domains in math, language development and interpersonal skills, such as socializing and identifying facial expressions. Based on ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and discrete trial performance, there are 800 computer lessons. “Planning and organizing these lessons myself would take extensive effort,” said Byers. “Now, I spend more time with children, and the student data logs help me identify where a child needs more assistance. I focus on creating lesson extensions to reinforce needed skills. I like the verbal prompts that change throughout the computer exercises.”
Reinke piloted TeachTown for 3 years with 30 children, ages 5-6. Each child had an IEP and worked independently based on their ability and IEP goals. “Teachers can select lessons or let the software prescribe them,” she said. “I like that the curriculum matches the Maryland State Curriculum. The software helps me to provide differentiated instruction with more consistency and gives my students more freedom to learn required skills quickly.”
This year, Reinke traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak with Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary of Special Education for the U.S. Department of Education. “Ms. Posny was interested in how children learn with technology and how computer-aided software supports classroom instruction. “I told her that I have seen improvements in my students’ academic skills and classroom behavior. Students appear happier and excited to learn.”
Reinke says students with autism like to organize their routine. This is especially true for one boy in her class. “He would get upset if his schedule was disrupted. I knew that if I could teach him how to tell time, he could better cope with going to the cafeteria for lunch. Within a couple of weeks, he was telling time on the school clock.”
Three years have passed since Reinke first piloted the TeachTown technology. “My students learned skills at a quicker pace and can now extend their skill practice at home. Their attention span increased and their independence shows through in social interactions. As importantly, they generalize skills to everyday experiences. These are all great learning attributes of computer-aided instruction to support children with autism.”
For more information, visit http://web.teachtown.com/.
April 10, 2013
The Autism Society, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots autism organization, has chosen Pittsburgh as the host city of its 44th annual conference on autism spectrum disorders.
April 5, 2013
Individuals with autism can attend the Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (in Pittsburgh) for FREE this year! Learn more: www.autism-society.org/conference.
April 3, 2013
Monarch Teaching Technologies, the makers of VizZle®, web-based educational software for visual learners with autism, will give one-year of free VizZle to every new (or renewing) Champion Member during April.
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April 2, 2013
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