Hacking Autism with HP and HTS

I had the privilege of attending HP’s Hacking Autism hack-a-thon yesterday. It was an incredible group of parents, students and professionals. I was amazed as I walked through the rooms watching teams of designers discuss and build software, and I remembered how amazing this journey has been for all of us at Hope Technology School. ABC highlighted the hack-a-thon and featured an interview by one of Hope Technology School’s own parents.

Hacking Autism is a project created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, HP and Hope Technology School. The Hacking Autism initiative is now endorsed by the Flutie Foundation and Autism Speaks. The program was announced by HP’s CTO Phil McKinney at last summer’s Maker Faire where he asked software engineers to join his efforts to create free software for the autism community. It is incredible to see the work being done at Hope Technology School that inspires and contributes to such great work.

When we began with touch computing at HTS we had a simple mandate: “hide the mouse, hide the keyboard and record every second of participation”. What we saw unfold before our eyes was staggering. The engagement, the interaction, the effort, the joy were all the proof we needed. You’ve heard the phrase, “Whatever works …”. This worked! Our students were highly motivated to use touch technology for learning and many students have experienced breakthroughs in communication using these tools.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners went to work with HP to develop a project in which HP would help people with autism. And we had the opportunity to discuss our students’ progress with the very engineers who designed the machines. I remember telling the story as a room full of computer engineers and designers hung on every word of what we explained about how their product helped our students. Everyone was inspired as we expressed the potential we saw.

As a school we continue to develop technology tools to help our students and the successes we’ve seen with many families have solidified our resolve to leverage touch computing to assist individuals with disabilities.  Although, it is difficult at times to see how far we have come, it is easy to see what will come next.  Changed lives.