The idea is so simple and so obvious there’s no reason why it didn’t develop immediately with the birth of the Internet. Use home computers to reach out to those with autism and give them an avenue to be educated. The traditional school environment and even special education programs are oftentimes a struggle for those with autism to adapt to. Education through the Internet removes the pressures of an educator’s pace and the uneasy abutment between the child’s behavior and that of classmates. It’s true not everyone has always had access to the internet and the technology wasn’t always the most befitting, but in the last fifteen years or so home computers have increasingly become the vital tools in allowing Autistic brains to develop properly, from pre-school to college.
The trade-off is a lack of social interaction. The behavioral development of someone with autism often needs the communal codes of the classroom to be successful. Without it there can be serious long-term developmental problems. Interacting with peers is what is important, however it is often what is most difficult. There is though, an inventive and surprisingly obvious compromise. American educator Salman Khan is currently operating a free online school, the Khan Academy, which aims to provide “high quality education to anyone, anywhere”. Right now it’s thousands of video lectures on all subject matter and is so successful that PBS, NPR, and CNN have featured Khan on their news programs. But Khan understands the importance of social interaction and is determined to essentially reverse the classroom model. Khan’s goal is that students will be taught at home, through videos, then spend time in an open class with students and an educator/overseer working with each other on “homework” and self-driven activities.
This model could mean great things for those with autism, especially those who seek higher education, a level that eludes many behaviorally maladjusted autistics. In fact, many universities have even caught on to the potential of such a system, and are currently offering programs that combine go-at-your-own-pace online lectures with easy outlets for social interaction with fellow students and educators trained to help. Online college rankings websites can lead those interested in the right direction. Education is essential for everyone, especially those with autism who must use it to understand how their talents can be uprooted and provide provisions to the world.
The adaptation of advanced methods of online education into the everyday lives of everyone will almost certainly mean those with autism will stand to gain greatly from it. It can mean the first time when those with autism are able to experience education at their own pace, and at the same time understand the value of community in the learning process. This could be the birth of an age when the education between those with and without autism is virtually indistinguishable.