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A recent segment on 60 Minutes focused on the various apps and technology devices that have helped autistic children and young adults to communicate. Correspondent Lesley Stahl, speaks with various children with autism spectrum disorders and their families to see just how effective these new technologies have been in lessening the gap of communication for those affected by these disorders.

Nancy Hood says her 28-year-old son, Joshua felt isolated because of his inability to communicate verbally due to autism. Although Joshua could understand conversations and think of logical responses, he could not articulate them. However, with the help of his special iPad language app, Joshua can now use a series of images to communicate with his family and peers.

In the segment, Joshua visits a local diner, where he can now order by himself using the app. When the waitress asks what he wants to order, Joshua clicks through the various categories on the app and selects a picture of a bagel and instructs the device to read aloud “I want a bagel, please.”

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Joshua, ordering at the local diner, with his iPad app.

Joshua’s app also includes options for various emotions so he can express how he feels in conversation. His therapist, Tammy Taylor says the technology has helped Joshua to feel more included in his surroundings.

“He’s part of the community. I mean, communication is the essence of being human. And here he is, communicating fully now,” she said.

In the segment, 60 minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl also visited a school for severely autistic children in Toronto, Canada where students are beginning to use assistive technology devices and applications like Joshua to help them communicate.

The teachers at the Beverley School say that the use of iPads has helped to improve the communication and engagement skills of some of their students.

“It’s not for all my students,” said teacher Ian Stuart, “But the ones who are engaged by it – it’s amazing!”

For the parents of children with autism and other disabilities, technologies like these are extremely helpful at opening the pathways for communication. With autism, communication and engagement can be some of the most difficult challenges children face each day.

Here at Goodwill NY-NJ, we provide services to help individuals with disabilities to improve their communication skills and make them feel more comfortable within their communities. At the GoodStrides program, our participants work with horses to learn new skills in a creative way. The animals help create a relaxing and enjoyable environment for our participants.

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Goodwill also offers many other rehabilitation services, which not only empower individuals with disabilities through the power of work, but give them a therapeutic release from their daily challenges.

 

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Alyssa Raiola is a Journalism student at Northwestern University where she spends her time writing for campus publications, searching for new restaurants, and picking the perfect Instagram filters. Although she loves jogging along Lake Michigan and exploring the Windy City, her heart lies back home in New Jersey where pizza is the right shape and bagels are a delicacy. This summer, she’s back in the Big Apple interning and blogging with Goodwill Industries before she heads off to Seville, Spain to study abroad for the fall semester.

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