Autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), knows no boundaries of race, religion, or socioeconomic background. It can occur in any family. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Autism affects one in 88 children in United States.
Although the disorder doesn’t directly affect my immediate family, people close to me have children with autism and other developmental disorders, so I am taking the occasion of National Autism Awareness Month in April to bring attention to free educational tools geared specifically toward helping children with autism.
Autism affects each child differently in terms of symptoms and severity. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, two issues ASD child struggle with are impaired social interactions and problems with verbal and nonverbal communications.
Social interaction impairment may be linked to children’s difficulty interpreting facial expressions. To help alleviate this problem, parents may want to check out The Feelings Game at http://do2learn.com/games/feelingsgame/index.htm. In this online app, children can test and reinforce their recognition of facial expressions by analyzing photos of a girl, woman, man or a combination of each. Once they choose a face or group of faces to review, the screen displays a panel of photos of the model(s) in three different facial poses. Above the photos is the name of the expression for the child to identify, such as happy, ashamed, sad, etc. If he or she clicks the photo depicting the right emotion, the child receives a “Correct” response and the name of the expression seems to come to life as it hops up and down on the screen in celebration of the child’s achievement.
If the child answers incorrectly, the program is very forgiving, and tells the child to try again with the same set of photos. When the question is finally answered correctly, the child receives the kudos described above. The game is set against a plain white background with very little to distract youngsters from the pages’ original purpose.
The Do2Learn site is also home to Milly and Billy (at: http://do2learn.com/games/wordpairs/index.htm), two cute little mice that teach children with autism and other disabilities about word pairs, such as front and back, up and down, and over and under. The rodent team clearly explains the differences between the word pairs and assume positions described. The child is asked which mouse is in a specified position, and if he or she clicks correctly, the mice dance in celebration of the child’s victory.
The site offers many other free educational games to help kids with autism and other disorders. If you have a favorite on Do2Learn or any other website focusing on educational games for children with special needs, please let me know in the comment section below.