This page is intended to provide a useful resource for parents of children with and without autism. A lot of the focus is on technology, since much of DART’s work is in this field, and on autism specifically.
For parents of children who don’t have autism, you might like to start with a look at this set of slides for a recent talk to the Edinburgh Skeptics. The talk explores the relationship between screentime and child development, reviewing the scientific literature and thereby exposing some common misconceptions. I’ve also summarised a few key points regarding the use of technology in schools in this handout for parents, originally developed for my own children’s school in Edinburgh. There are lots of good articles out there discussing the role of technology in learning and development as well. As a starter have a look at this piece in the Times Educational Supplement and this blog by Ed Tech leader and common sense advocate Jose Picardo.
When it comes to kids with autism, it is our feeling, as described so wonderfully by old Albert here, that children with autism are sometimes judged less able than they are because they’re in an unhelpful context. Using technology, not for all kids but for many, can be a way for them to demonstrate skills and get back in charge of play, learning and life. This is one of the reasons we’re so keen at DART to use research to explore how technology can best serve the needs of the autism community. We put together this downloadable guide for parents on how to get the most from technology. In addition, an overview of research findings in this field can be seen in these slides for a talk on technology and autism given to parents and practitioners at Middletown Autism in Northern Ireland in June 2014. More recently (march 2017) I gave a set of three talks to Autism Argyll which report on:
- an overview of the evidence on autism & technology
- myth-busting plus a guide to choosing and using technologies
- technology for specific uses (including a focus on communication)
One hot topic currently is the extent to which technology might provide a life-changing solution for children with autism to help overcome their difficulties with traditional communication. I recently supervised a group of students who put together a helpful resource evaluating the evidence for various high and low-tech communication supports which can be seen at these pages hosted within the DART site.
A separate topic we’ve recently started exploring, in collaboration with researchers in other parts of the University of Edinburgh, is the interplay between bilingualism and autism. As a result of our preliminary research and evaluation of the literature we’ve produced this bilingualism and autism fact sheet for parents who are deciding whether to raise their autistic child bilingually or not.
In addition, of course, this page is a place to share news about research opportunities. At the moment we’re not recruiting to any active studies, but please check back if you would like to be involved in our work. You can also sign up to the blog (click on the Feedburner link on the right hand side) or the mailing list by emailing us. As the quotations above indicate, we try to give our families a nice time and some useful info as a result of their participation.
- If your child has recently been diagnosed this blog post, and this one, and this one, might be useful.
- The National Autistic Society is a fantastic support organisation for families in the UK. There is loads of information for parents and other relatives. There are resources on topics as diverse as sleep training to employment.
- If you’re interested in taking part in research, colleagues at the Wales Autism Research Centre have put together this fantastic booklet which explains what to expect if you or your child is having a brain scan – it is tailored to the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre but lots of the content is relevant to research involving brain scanning anywhere.
- Also, if you’re interested in research opportunities in general, you might want to think about joining the ASD-UK database, which has the goal to facilitate research with and for families across the UK. It is an Autistica funded project and has the potential to revolutionise the progress of autism research in the UK.
- Allied to the NAS is Research Autism, a superb online hub where you can find out about the latest research evidence for any and all interventions approaches. Essential reading if you’re considering the best options for your child and your family – the same content is also now available as a book on Choosing Autism Interventions. Once more, opportunities to take part in research on this page (it never ends!).
- As well the evidence on the Research Autism site and in their book, parents considering interventions might find useful information in this booklet which describes the right questions to ask and things to consider when evaluating an intervention.
- For families based in Scotland I would highly recommend signing up to the Autism Network Scotland newsletter which circulates loads of incredibly useful and impartial information about autism services and events in Scotland.
- If you’re feeling isolated as a parent of a child with autism, you might want to look at My Autism Team, an online social network specifically for parents of kids with autism. I don’t personally know anyone who is subscribed, but they do have 45,000 members (and counting) and it strikes me as a fantastic idea.
- For a bit of inspiration, have a look at this article by novelist David Mitchell, whose son is autistic.
- The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is another excellent place to go online for uplifting blog posts and a considered perspective. This blog on how to respond to over-hyped “evidence” is particularly good.