Autism Theory and Technology - ITA Course
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
This course will lay a foundation in autism theory and autism technology that significantly leverages and expands MIT's ability to pioneer new technology for helping under-served populations. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) encompass a broad set of conditions applying to a growing number of people worldwide, which the CDC identified in 2007 as involving 1 in 150 elementary school-age children. A person receives a diagnosis of ASD when they have a combination of atypical responses in categories relating to social interaction, communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors. Many people on the autism spectrum face significant challenges with daily living, relationship building and maintenance, emotion awareness and regulation, and both verbal and nonverbal communication. Many also have problems with motor coordination and fine motor control to produce speech or certain sequences of movements, and some have a mysterious condition where their ability to move completely disappears and returns. Many also have problems with sleep, sensory regulation, attention, and executive function abilities. Students who take this class will learn about all of these challenges, many of which also affect people who do not have an autism diagnosis, and will receive a state-of-the-art overview of technologies being developed to address such challenges. This class will involve presentations from experts in autism and in autism technologies, and provide opportunities to interact with individuals on the autism spectrum, including those who support them. The course will also explore the converging challenges and goals of autism research and new technologies - including networked, wearable, and robotic - that have increasingly human-like social, emotional, and communication skills. We will advance ways technology can be used for helping both researchers and people on the autism spectrum to gain greater understanding of the condition through systematic measurement of affective, physiological, and behavior data. We will also work together to develop technologies that increase opportunities for communication and expression. Our goals are to enable people with disabilities to gain the tools and help they need, while also helping researchers, families, and their support network to develop a better understanding of what autism is.