Saturday 21 April 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018 Day 21: T is for Technology

BSL: technology

T is for Technology

First of all, many of the brains behind the technology we use are or were thought to be autistic. Without autistic contributions to this field technology would be very different! And their being autistic will have played a significant role in their skills, abilities, thinking and so on. That's definitely worth celebrating!

Quick reminder that we're not all tech geeks. As my friends and family will happily tell you, I'm one of the least technologically-minded people of my generation; I only finally got a smartphone 4 months ago and that was primarily because my old laptop went away for repair for rather a long time before it turned out they couldn't get the part required because they didn't make it any more. As part of autism acceptance, let's halt the spread of that stereotype and remind people that we're a diverse group of people with as broad a spectrum of skills and abilities as NTs.

The other aspect of this subject is the role technology plays in autistics' lives; the combination of technology and social media, which I talked about yesterday in S is for Social Media, has revolutionised our ability to connect and communicate like never before. Technology has allowed us to link up, interact, support each other, organise, reach parents of autistic children, and so on.

Technology has also enabled many autistics to express themselves far better. For those who are non-speaking, technology has enabled them to find their voice through typing in particular. This is why it is so insulting that a lack of speech causes many to assume severe intellectual disability; as I have mentioned before, the ability to speak has traditionally been associated with intelligence and used as a marker of it. Computers, tablets and other communication devices allow much better and freer expression than things like PECS. Intellectual disability and incompetence should never be presumed anyway, and technology developments have emphatically demonstrated this.

Even for those of us who do speak, we have times (usually when we are tired, stressed, experiencing sensory overload, for example) when we can't. I've always felt more comfortable communicating through the written word than speech, and I can't always speak (or write by hand).

I mentioned recently in L is for Love that there is a massive emphasis on speech above all, and I find that parents and professionals get so focused on this that other avenues of communication are overlooked, pushed aside, considered inferior. Don't! Don't see it as a last resort, as lesser! Give your autistic child as many communication options as possible, as early as possible. Technology will benefit them! Having a means of communication is essential and if technology aids that, it will make everyone's lives better.

In addition to communication and connection, technology has given us the opportunity to develop businesses, to provide better information, to access support, make information more accessible. One of my friends works for a company called Brain in Hand, which enables people to live the lives they want. Now I have a smartphone it is something I am considering as an option.

And it would be terribly remiss of me to not mention the advances made in mobility technology to enable the freedom so many of us multiply-disabled autistics enjoy, whether it is a manual self-propelled rigid-frame wheelchair (which is what I use), a power chair or other aids. They are our freedom.

Yes, you do need to be careful with the internet and so on, but technology has massively improved the lives of many autistics. Embrace technology-assisted communication, embrace its ability to connect the autistic and autism communities, embrace how much it has benefitted us. And embrace the contribution of autistics towards its creation and development!

Sorry this is short but I am exhausted. It took me three attempts to write "provide" instead of the "prodive" that my fingers kept typing.

I am considering, once this series of posts is over, looking into developing it into a full book on autism acceptance. The thought only came to me this morning, but we need more things about autism acceptance out there!

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