Assistive or adaptive technology commonly refers to "...products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities".
Assistance and adaptive technology is sometimes divided into high tech (uses electronic equipment) and low tech (does not use electronic equipment).
Many interventions which use assistive or adaptive technology also appear in other types of intervention. For example, some behavioural interventions (such as theory of mind training, video modelling, and visual schedules) rely on technology for their delivery.
Determining the benefits of most forms of assistive and adaptive technology for autistic people is not currently possible. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed.
This may be because some technologies, such as apps, are too new to have a solid evidence base. However this situation may change in the next few years as there are several research projects underway at present.
Different forms of assistive and adaptive technology pose different risks. For example, no risks are known for biofeedback but transcranial magnetic stimulation can sometimes produce seizures, painful scalp sensations, facial twitching and hearing problems.
We have categorised the different types of assistive and adaptive technology as follows (although there are many other ways in which they can be categorised and many individual interventions will fall under more than one of the following categories).
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) involves alternate methods of communicating needs, feelings, ideas, and perceptions through the use of electronic and non-electronic devices that provide a means for expressive and receptive communication for persons with limited or no speech.
Specific forms of technology-based AAC include
Please see the section on Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Please see the section on Technology-Based, Behavioural and Developmental Interventions
Motor aids refer to any devices and tools which make use of, or which aim to improve, motor functioning i.e. control, coordination and movement of the whole body or parts of the body.
Sensory aids refer to any devices and tools which make use of, or which aim to improve sensitivity to, one or more of the senses.
Specific types of aids include:
Please see the section on Motor Sensory Interventions
We use the term medical devices to refer to any tools which are used within medical procedures, particularly those medical procedures which are being used in an alternative or 'off-label' way.
Specific medical devices include those used in:
Please see the section on Medical Procedures.