Hacking Autism

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Article first published as Hacking Autism on Technorati.

One thing that most experts in the autism community can agree with is that those on the spectrum tend to perform well with computers. In fact, many special education teachers have found a lot of technology to be of use in the classroom. For instance, our son's teacher has computers that teach letters, reading, colors, shapes, etc. But resources are few, and often expensive.

Hence, enter Hacking Autism, a social initiative that was announced at the Maker Faire by Phil McKinney, the CTO of HP's Personal Systems Group.

Hacking Autism is a place where software developers and parents or specialists who need apps for those on the spectrum can get together and work out projects for their needs. The idea is to provide software tools for free (or at least with a free trial), thereby giving those on the spectrum assistance through technology.

The overall benefit for any company willing to invest time and effort in this project is name recognition and up-selling of other projects that may be related. The benefit for the community is, hopefully, the explosion of free apps that otherwise may not be created and/or may not be found.

For those looking for applications, web tools, mobile apps, etc., this will become a huge repository for software. It will make locating apps easier, having a single point of reference instead of searching through various websites in a vain attempt to find the tool you need. It also means getting software that actually accomplishes your goal, because you as a user can submit an idea for an application to the software developers who are registered.

It's a great idea. I like the focus that is placed on need as opposed to development, free as opposed to really expensive (autism is expensive enough with ABA therapies), and multi-platform as opposed to a single type of computer (Windows vs. Mac, iOS vs. Android, etc). Finally, it shows a level of trust in the development community to be willing to help satisfy the needs of those who are struggling to better understand the world around them.

A special thanks to HP for introducing this idea to the world, and to those developers who have already signed up. I am cautiously optimistic with this project, and hope to see it reach out and embrace those families who are struggling to find tools to better serve their members on the spectrum.