New technology to help autistic children integrate into traditional classrooms

A 2014 survey that People for Education conducted in Canada found that about 49 per cent of elementary school principals asked that parents keep children with special education needs at home for at least a portion of the school day.

Now, however, the Toronto District School Board is testing a new technology, WebMoti, for schools to use in aiding children with autism. This technology is a multimedia and multisensory system that allows these children to be part of the classroom from a remote location. Students will have complete control over the system and can log off if they experience a sensory overload.

There will be a 24-month testing period of WebMoti that covers 16 elementary and post-secondary students across Toronto. Ryerson University, Tactile Audio Displays Inc and Webchair, a Dutch education technology company, developed the technology.

Initially, developers will base the system in schools so that they can check for kinks and fix them. Later, they will shift it to the students’ homes.

The Netherlands initially tested the Webchair, part of the WebMoti system, on 1,000 children diagnosed with cancer and needing to stay at home. In 2012, Graham Smith, the founder and creator of the technology, tested it on children with autism, and the results showed that it could help minimise their anxiety levels.

Mr Smith said that ten Dutch children with autism showed better communications skills after using the Webchair. In fact, one child who never uttered a single word in the classroom began talking after he connected with his classroom using the technology.

Presently, use of the Webchair is underway in schools in the Netherlands, while WebMoti trials are going on in Ireland, the UK, Canada and Germany.

One parent whose child has autism said that schools should look at technology that helps children with special needs. Technology can aid these children in becoming more independent and excelling in their studies.

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