New program highlights strengths of autistic children


A new program from the University of Utah helps autistic children focus on building their skills and using an aptitude for visual-spatial thinking, computers and other electronic media. The program goes further than one-on-one training by enlisting the help of the entire family to support the autistic child.

Cheryl Wright, associate professor of family and consumer studies, coordinated the workshops in partnership with Google’s Project Spectrum, an initiative to teach job skills to autistic kids. But Wright and her team found the effects of the program went further than job-readiness. The session helped the students with social engagement and also with their key relationships, like family.

About the Program

The sessions are two hours long and include hands-on training in the use of 3-D modeling software by Google called SketchUP. Parents and siblings were also encouraged to attend the sessions. Students are then expected to share their projects and present them to their peers.

“One of the most compelling parts of this program came from when the boys presented their findings to their classmates,” said Wright. In this program, the students' skills are highlighted, whereas in most other programs their deficits become a focus and an obstacle to overcome. “Their talents are often invisible. In our program, we provided a platform for their talents to shine.”

The students were more social, more interactive and more self-confident coming out of the program. “Cheryl and her team have brought an amazing amount of professionalism, data, credibility and excitement to the SketchUp/autism connection and, because of it, people in the larger ASD community are taking note and wanting to learn more,” said Tom Wyman, leader of the SketchUp team in Boulder, Colorado.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal

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