Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 8th 2014 Contents A36
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 8, 2014
If estimates are true, there are thousands of people
with autism in this country. But only a few hundred
are being treated.
The oldest organisation in T&T devoted to helping
people with autism---which affects a person s ability
to communicate and process information---serves
only 80 clients a week and can give each just a small
fraction of the amount of therapy they need. Donations
help the Autistic Society, an NGO, maintain head-
quarters built out of four shipping containers in
D Abadie and pay modest salaries to a small staff.
Within recent years some commonplace technology
has been making the organisation s job a little easier.
The tablet computer, in particular the iPad, is work-
ing wonders in the treatment of autism, according
to reports coming out of the US over the last few
years. Parents and teachers in T&T are slowly being
exposed to the tablet s benefits.
"It s very attractive. You re seeing action right away.
It s much better than if you take a piece of paper and
try to teach them something," said Teresina Sieunarine,
president of the Autistic Society, about the appeal of
"Even a computer screen is not as effective as the
iPad, which they could move about with," she said.
The society currently has five iPads, donated to
them by multinational gaming company GTech, which
provides the technology for all of Trinidad & Tobago s
lottery games and some of the country s cell phone
top up services.
GTech---which seeks to help organisations that
support special-needs children as part of their social
outreach efforts in T&T--- has done more than just
They ve provided apps and ongoing technical assis-
tance from their IT team. They linked the Autistic
Society up with US autism specialist Jason Backes,
who s visited T&T three times in aid of the organ-
isation, including March last year, when he conducted
a workshop on using the iPad to treat autism.
"Technology is what we do. That s our stronghold.
That goes to the very heart of our core business,"
said Ann-Dawn Young Sang, GTech s vice-president
for the Caribbean region, explaining the company s
use of computer technology as part of their After
School Advantage Programme, founded in 1999 to
help children and teens at GTech locations around
"Children with autism have to learn a lot of those
things that come naturally to other people," she said.
In an anonymous testimonial provided by the
Autistic Society, one local mother related how her
non-verbal son had not been interested in printed
images but then became "addicted" to the iPad, using
downloaded images to communicate messages, includ-
ing potentially life-saving ones like "sick."
"The iPad has changed my son s life," said the
GTech has donated tablets, computers, software,
apps and the necessary support to other organisations
helping children with different kinds of special needs.
One of them is Caribbean Kids and Families Therapy
Organisation, where physically disabled children have
improved the muscle strength in their arms and
fingers by using tablets, which encourage interaction
through fun games and learning tools.
"The touch screen and layout make these tablets
more accessible for children with co-ordination or
learning difficulties; these children find sliding and
tapping easier than either typing or writing," said
Caribbean Kids general manager Krista Hamel-Smith.
Young Sang said such interventions can have long-
term impact on people with special needs.
There are a variety of apps for the iPad that have been especially helpful for the
development of autistic children.
Tech tools to help autistic children
For more information about the Autism
Society of T&T visit their site at autismtt.org or
check their Facebook page at
Super Duper "Understanding Inferences"
This app is rated as great for making "smart guesses" for
inferencing and for reasoning skills.
Reviewers say this app is incredibly helpful for high-functioning
autistic children who are working on identifying and
constructing appropriate conversations.
Super Duper "What Are They Thinking?"
Therapists have found it excellent for syntactic, semantic and
social language development. This fun app aims to improve your
child's inferencing, reasoning and conversational skills.
USEFUL IPAD APPS
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