As technology advances, tools emerge which make life easier. Here are some tools which can help students with autism deal with transitions and travel to new places, and as well as encourage them to speak. There is even technology to find a student who runs away.
Some of the newest technology involves smart speakers that converse with students, combined with programming that determines what students should do and when. Smart speakers are particularly useful because they encourage kids to speak, since they see something happening after they talk to the speaker. For example, Amazon’s Echo – Alexa, a smart speaker, can be programmed with Amazon Alexa Skill Blueprints or the IFTTT (If That Then This) mobile app, to let students talk to the speaker and then hear what to do. Skill Blueprints lets you plan the things that will happen and the voice tells the routine. See discussion of this on TheAutismCafe.com blog. You can also set alarms, create lists, play music, and more.
If you have a lamp or any regular light socket in your classroom, Phillips Hue smart light bulbs can be programmed to change color to signal a new activity. A lower-cost option of this can be found at Novostella.net. The bulbs can be used in conjunction with the Alexa speaker app.
To help students know what to expect when traveling to new places, check out Tour Creator. Tour Creator makes it easy to build immersive, 360-degree tours right from your own computer, which you can use in Google Expeditions if desired. Tour Creator also offers pre-made tours of famous places such as the Eiffel Tower.
There is even a source of virtual tours of the insides of buildings, at AbleEyes.org, which is adding tours all the time. If there is a building not provided on the AbleEyes.org site, you can request that a video be made, though of course you would want to give ample advance notice for this.
Social stories with pictures are a tried-and-true method of helping students know what to expect during transitions. VizZle is a respected source of social stories, with a lesson library of more than 13,500 activities created and shared by teachers and therapists. Used by many districts, it costs $75 per student per year. See the free trial on their website.
Book Creator, usable on tablet, desktop, or laptop, offers a free trial, It lets you create social stories you can publish online for others to use. See this article which describes how to use other apps with Book Creator.
Story Creator, free and for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, is so easy to use that students can make their own social stories.
Happy Kids Timer is a good recommendation for parents who would like help getting kids ready for school. It is available for iOS and Android and is free. For $1.99, evening routines are also available.
If one of your students is a flight risk, check out AngelSense.com, the only GPS tracker designed for special needs. It could be a solution for families or for the classroom. The Guardian Kit is currently on sale for $99, and it also requires a subscription. See these funding options to help cover the cost.