Pascale Paturle: "digital technology is very attractive for people with autism"

Autism has been one of our commitments for a long time. Now digital technology opens up new possibilities in our work. We talk with Pascale Paturle, manager of the health philanthropy.
Pascale Paturle autism and digital
What are the priorities of the Foundation these days in terms of autism?
Since 1991, the priorities have stayed the same: helping people with autism, their families but also professionals. They are our chief concern. Our aim is to meet the basic needs of people with autism and those around them, but also to offer different activities which take them outside of their daily routine. We also try to be pioneers. For example, we now have a major programme involving digital tools for people with autism. The use of these tools with appropriate support has a very beneficial impact.
What role can digital technology play in the field of autism?

Very early on, our Foundation in Spain worked with digital tools and their potential use for people with autism. The key aspect was the appearance of tablets. These are tactile tools which use different senses: touch, sight, hearing. We know that digital technology is very attractive for people with autism. It also allows us to monitor the development of a child or adult with autism.

"Tablets are very attractive devices for people with autism."

Tablets can offer very simple things, but also more complex use. When they start using it, there aren’t any obstacles for a person with autism and it is easier to progress. Now we have provided these tablets to over 400 specialised establishments. Feedback has been very encouraging, the teams are very satisfied with the possibilities offered by these tools.
What work is the Foundation involved with at the moment in terms of digital technology?
It is a real priority for the Foundation with several main principles: equipment (tablets), parental and professional support and then content. For the latter, we launched the portal in March 2014. This site can be used to reference and comment on all digital applications linked to autism. Our aim is to provide information about what exists but also to go a little further and exchange good practices. The aim is to be able to encourage communication between parents and professionals but also between the parents themselves. It is important to be able to create a dynamic exchange to identify the applications and tools which provide results.

"professionals are very satisfied and want to continue to work with the tablets"

During May 2015, we carried out a report with some establishments which were given these digital tools. The professionals at these establishments told us that they have discovered skills that were unknown for people with autism, whether children or adults. The use of tablets is quite intuitive. For example, a little girl who didn’t communicate before discovering the tablet. Now she takes photos and shows them to people around her, it’s a way for her to communicate. Overall professionals are very satisfied and want to continue to work with the tablets whilst reinforcing human support.
Is there work at the moment on the relationship between digital technology and autism?
Currently, digital technology is used as a tool to better understand autism, and there is a lot of research on this topic. However the use of digital technology by people with autism is not featured in many research works. With digital technology, we try to understand the behaviour of people with autism but we are not yet asking about the impact of digital technology and tools on the daily lives. Now it’s also up to us to promote and finance research focusing on this issue.

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