Canvas-Live: An assistive technology to teach autistic children

Celia Shahnaz

7 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Canvas-Live: An assistive technology to teach autistic children

In order to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, as a researcher, innovator and passionate volunteer in promoting humanitarian technology based activities, I felt to share my experience and vision to support this year’s theme “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”. I along with my colleague Prof. Fattah from BUET, our students Tanvir, Imam, Ashraf in recent years came up with a project named “Canvas-live” to emphasise on building such a platform where one can teach efficiently the autistic children in interactive, innovative and much simpler way, thereby creating a low cost user friendly virtual learning environment.

Autistic children are not burden of our society, if they are brought under proper teaching process. From recent research it is found that many children with autism think in picture not in language. Their thoughts are like pictures running in their imagination. It seems pictures are their first language and words are their second language. Pictures are easier to them to understand than words because it can be visualized easily. So teaching them through drawing could be one of the best ways. Through drawing one can read what is inside them, their likings, thoughts, feelings, and interests. Although different forms of teaching methodologies and tools are available all around the world, almost all of them are very expensive and many of these tools are not very effective. There are several autistic schools and medical centers, but they are not up to date in teaching process. A high tuition fee is also not bearable for most of the families. Now a days different types of electronic media are very user friendly and used by majority of population irrespective of economic and social status. Due to the rapid increase in the number of people using different modern electronic devices, such as computers, internet, tablet pc, and mobile phone, various teaching tools utilising those electronic media are proposed by several researchers as alternative way to solve these problems, may not fully but partially.


New research shows that many autistic children are very much enthusiastic in computer and new technologies. Apart from that, if teaching process can be completed using a single electronic device, the tuition fee will decrease drastically. Hence, the demand of teaching and learning tools for autistic children, those are fully operating via electronic devices, is increasing day by day with the expectation that these tools will not only attract the users but also ensure fast and effective learning. Many researchers have shown their success in teaching autistic children via various types of technology. One of the major concerns of our project was to develop a new low cost technology to assist this process. Since the project also offers online teaching and learning option, to spread this new technique we have to spread the news to everyone who want to collaborate and also to the guardians of the children with autism. The educational instruments which require huge cost for the autistics children is really hard nut to crack for most of the families in developing countries. On the other hand, in this era, it is hard to find any person who does not know about computer. As we are going to teach through computer, it seems that a computer can turn into a school for autistic children. The way the project is developed, we hope to incorporate additional features in future in view of improving content and application. To bring autistic children under this teaching facility, first of all, we need to familiarize them with this teaching facility. Arranging more campaigns in local autistics’ schools will immensely help in this regard and will provide opportunity to develop awareness about the use of this environment among teachers and students. Since Autism can never be cured but can be improved, I encourage people in technology to consider contributing in developing and deploying teaching and learning methods which are easier, interesting and cost effective.


The writer is a Professor, EEE, BUET, Chair, IEEE Bangladesh section, Communications Chair, IEEE SIGHT Steering Committee