Earlier this week while I was teaching my Mac OS X Support Essentials class, a really good friend of mine sent on an article she read about the University of Utah, Google SketchUp, and Autism. And just today, as I was returning from administering a certification test, I heard the same news on KSL. What was said isn't that big of a surprise, but the connections made my eyebrows rise.
It seems that Google has been getting a lot of feedback with regards to their drafting program, Google SketchUp. Parents have been reporting amazing work coming from this platform from their autistic children. It seems that the unique way Autistic people see the world gives them the ability to see and create in three dimensions. So the University of Utah and Google have teamed up to teach teachers and parents why SketchUp has become such a useful tool, giving children who are generally dismissed because of their ability a chance to show that they have real commercial and marketable skills. The workshop they are hosting is this Saturday (Feb. 6th) from 10 AM to noon at the Alfred Emery Building (225 South 1400 East in the President's Circle). It's free and open to the public.
Now, I'm not surprised that tools like Google SketchUp have become popular with Autistic children, as I can see the engineer in my son's actions and block constructions. What raised my eyebrows was the collaboration that Google has been willing to do. Not only do they already provide the basic version of SketchUp for free, but they are actively working with researchers to develop the software with autistic children in mind. That is commendable.
If only other companies would take a leaf from Google in this area. Imagine, if you would, Apple working hand in hand with Autism researchers and therapists to develop iPod Touch and iPad applications that improve communication, learning, and retention among Autistic children. The iPod Touch is already been proven to be an exceptional and inexpensive (relatively, at any rate) AAC device. The potential is phenomenal.
So kudos for Google! I'm looking forward to seeing more companies take charge in developing useful tools for everyone, even if they do think a bit different.