I know I have been writing lately about the risk to our creativity caused by an addiction to technology like Smartphones. And I have written about how this addiction can prevent authentic face to face communication with other people. I still feel these are some of the big down sides of being so hooked on our technology.
But today I found an article about a very positive use for Smartphones. This was a New York Times post by Judith Newman about her son 13 year old son Gus who happens to have Autism and his relationship with Siri, the Apple Intelligent Personal Assistant.
I already was aware of the ability of technology to engage kids with special needs. Technology is one of the tools used in modern schools to teach kids the curriculum. The computer lessons are often designed like games to help kids learn phonics, spelling and math. The kids enjoy interacting with the games and the games reinforce what is being taught in the classroom.
Ms. Newman’s post described how the features of Siri are beneficial to her son’s special needs. Kids with autism can have major difficulty engaging with other people socially in conversation. They can have special interests or obsessions about certain topics that they want to talk about to the exclusion of all else. They do not pick up on cues from other people that they are not interested and they find it hard to be able to take turns in conversation. Siri is able to talk with Ms. Newman’s son Gus on all his favorite topics without losing patience with him. Even though the voice recognition feature has some problems this is actually a plus for Gus because he is made to enunciate. This helps him practice speaking clearly. Siri also models being polite. When Gus got a bit sharp with Siri over some music suggestions she had made, Siri told him he had a right to his opinions. This helped him realize that he did not need to get angry if he did not agree with someone and then he thanked Siri for the music.
This sounds like a great use for this type of program for kids that need to learn and practice the art of conversation. It is a help to parents who need a respite from the long discussions with their kids about their child’s special interests. I would not want to see the kids getting attached to these devices to the exclusion of everything else but I do see how they can be beneficial in certain ways.
Definitely something worth further investigation, don’t you agree?