A recent study by the Institute of Communication Culture and Information Technology at the University of Toronto proves those must have iPhones and iPads are not just the latest in a long line of tech trends. The gadgets are also great for enabling people with autism to find and keep jobs.
Students with autism who used iPads fare much better in assessments when compared to traditional examinations, says assistant professor Rhonda McEwan, who worked on the project. The touch-screen devices also showed peer-to-peer receptive communication skills to be more advanced than thought in 75% of cases and came as a surprise to teachers and parents alike.
While there clearly needs to be more research in the area, could new technology like iPads and iPhones be the answer to helping Autistic job seekers learn and gain the skills necessary for entering the workforce?
Most people diagnosed with autism are intelligent and capable of performing well in the work place. One of the major problems they face is verbal communication and confidence in their ability to compete at the same level as the others. If tablets like the iPad improve communication and learning skills, there is a real possibility to remove the communicative barriers to employment among Autistic candidates, especially if they start using the devices at a young age.
The technology can also be cost effective throughout someone’s educational and professional career. It takes away the need to purchase specialized equipment that often costs thousands of dollars compared to an iPad, which typically costs less than $1,000. And as we all become more familiar with the technology, the time and costs required to integrate people with autism in the workplace will decrease.
Should people with autism prove to work well with technology that's already widely available, it can be a whole new game changer for educators and progressive recruiters that are committed to helping people with disabilities find jobs.
One employer already seeing success is Walgreens. It initially piloted a program to hire people with autism at its distribution center in South Carolina,, and the program now widespread throughout its facilities. Using visual and computer aids through pictures and icons is one of the ways Walgreens has trained workers with autism. Due to the success of hiring in the distribution centers, Walgreens now is running a pilot program to hire and train people with autism to work in its stores as well.
The use of iPads will not only aid learning and cut costs, it will also help lower stress levels and increase workplace integration of people with autism. It also has the potential to increase an employer’s confidence in hiring a person with autism, as well as the confidence of people with autism to compete with their peers and break down barriers to employment.