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Autism spectrum disorder discussed at Q&A session at USU

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The use of technology to communicate with those affected with autism spectrum disorder was discussed at an autism discussion at the Lake View Terrace room of the University Student Union on Saturday.

Shannon Cooke, a 21-year-old woman affected with autism spectrum disorder uses linguistic software on her iPad to communicate with her mother and care-taker, Corey Cooke.

Educators, parents and students, including CSUN members of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, also attended the autism session.

Technology for speech therapy is becoming a popular tool for both educators and parents who assist individuals with physical, visual and communicative disorders.

The software, Proloquo2Go, is an available for mobile devices and personal computers. This form of technology aids Cooke in understanding her daughter’s needs.

“The software makes a huge difference,” Cooke said. “She uses it to tell me what exactly she is thinking. Samantha loves to play video games with it too.”

The application allows individuals to select words through visual symbols with the guidance of an educator or parent to avoid reliance on the device.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that it is based in the brain and has an onset in early childhood. It is usually characterized by varying degrees of impaired social interaction and communication skills, as well as the presence of restricted and/or repetitive interests and behaviors.

In a response to a CSUN student inquiring about his undiagnosed relative, Beth Bitner, a nationally board certified teacher, emphasized that seeking therapy has no age limit.

“Even for those undiagnosed, it is never too late to start behavioral therapy,” Bitner said, “Age does not matter, it’s important that social programs be accessible for both children and adults with ASD.”

Bitner has seen patients up to 60 years old receiving behavioral therapy for the first time. She has worked with individuals dealing with ASD for about 25 years.

“The transition phase for individuals with autism is a challenging feat,” said Anne Davis, a speech pathologist with the Professional Child Development Association. “Often times these periods of transition cause stress from individuals with autism and their families.”

The CSUN department of communication disorders and sciences offers further assistance with special need programs.

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