/ Technology

Hacking for Autism

It has been said that the greatest innovation takes place at the boundaries between disciplines. This is precisely what makes the Hacking Autism initiative exciting. Hewitt-Packard and Autism Speaks launched the Hacking Autism initiative in 2011 with the goal of bringing together people supporting individuals with autism and designers and software developers to create new information and communication technologies to benefit people with autism. Their work continues nearly two years later. Much has been gained from the initiative but there is still more progress to be made.

In the past couple of decades, we have seen the emergence of many new and exciting technologies, including desktop applications, websites, video games, touch screens, motion control, and augmented reality experiences. These technologies have transformed our ives in many ways, including the ways in which we live, learn, teach, play and work. Yet there are still groups of people, such as people with autism, that have not benefited as greatly from the introduction of these technologies as they should. These technologies are rife with possibilities for educating, entertaining, treating and assisting people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). By connecting people who understand ASD with the people making apps and videos games, it may be possible to develop apps and games that improve the quality of life for people with autism.

The key takeaway from the early success of the Hacking Autism initiative is that technology can be a great enabler for persons with autism but it will require people with diverse skillsets to work together to make it happen. We need to bridge the gaps between the mental health and information and communication technology communities so that people with autism spectrum disorders can benefit from information and community technology like so many others already have.