New Perspectives for Children on the Spectrum

Paul Braun with son Mitchell working with a drone.

Paul Braun with son Mitchell working with a drone.

One group of parents is using technology to help engage children who are on the autism spectrum in something that they are interested in, with children who also share their interests. “Taking Autism to the Sky” or TATTS, was developed mainly to help with socializing skills and learning about the physical world around them. Paul Braun’s son Mitchell inspired him to start this project. As a geographer, Braun noticed how useful drones were in helping them survey and map the land, so he was curious as to how seeing the earth from an aerial view would help an autistic child view and understand their world.

Getting a group of kids together that liked technology and were fascinated by the flying drones was an easy enough task. The kids were able to get together and work on every aspect of the drone, including building and customizing their own. They are then able to be the pilot and navigator and even edit and analyze the video that they capture. Braun’s son says, “Sometimes, I imagine actually being in the drone when I fly it. We use some goggles and in there is like a little TV…you could actually see what the drone is seeing right now.”

Dr. Peter Williamson, a neuropsychologist at Dean Clinic, talks about the benefits when autistic children especially, are able to connect to their peers through a shared interest, “when you have kids and they’ve got a common interest and they’ve got something that can kind of bring them together, galvanize them as a group, all of a sudden these kids start talking to one another, they start relating to one another. So technology is a perfectly good hook.” Not only was this helpful to their social skills but they were also able to gain a deeper understanding into how the world looks on a realistic scale, including improving their depth perception.

When the kids were asked to draw their surroundings before seeing the video from using a drone, this is what they came up with:

before dronebefore drone 2After experimenting with the drones and seeing the world from an aerial perspective, this is what their drawings looked like:

after drone

after drone 2As you can see from their drawings, their understanding of reality was definitely enhances from being able to see a new perspective they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Paul Braun hopes to expand this program into a non-profit one day so that other children on the spectrum can have the opportunity to engage in new perspectives too.