An IT Club run by the University of New England has helped children and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder make positive changes to their levels of anxiety, social interaction and the development of IT skills.
The ASD-IT Club was run over a six-week period in Armidale in October and involved five participants ranging in ages from 12 to 17.
Professor Chris Sharpley from the UNE’s Brain-Behaviour Research Group said depression and anxiety is a common trait among people with ASD.
“Participants reported a 20% decrease in difficulties controlling worries and 33% decrease in feeling excessively shy with classmates. Sleep difficulties and restlessness also improved with the participation of the course.”
Researchers also saw substantive individual improvements in participants’ social communication and interaction skills.
“This included increased eye contact and initiation or engagement in peer interaction. There were also unanticipated positive behaviours such as increased self-regulation, willingness to share personal stories and feelings and overall group cohesion.”
Participants also reported having an increased knowledge base regarding IT and feeling more confident in using and learning about IT.
Researchers also had several unexpected and pleasing findings from the club. One of these was the sense of group solidarity and cohesion that was experienced by group members, which became most obvious during the end-of-term Pizza Party.
“During this purely social occasion, members interacted with each other in more positive ways than before the IT Club.”
What was particularly valuable was that all the members of the club also want to maintain their relationships with each other and with the IT programme in the future. To help them do this, the UNE researchers will be hosting further sessions for these 5 participants into 2017 so that they can continue to work on their social interactions as well as learn about new topics they are interested in. along with the parents.
A second ASD-IT Club for new students will commence in February. Interested people (or their parents) should contact Ms Anne Rix, at Family & Community Services, Rusden St, Armidale. Ph: 02 6773 0352 | Mobile 0427 840 029. email: Anne.Rix@facs.nsw.gov.au