Friday, April 24, 2009

Spectrum basement Check out this cool, free software for autism from Google!

Congratulations to SafeMinds President Theresa Wrangham on Project Spectrum. In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, Google is recognizing Project Spectrum on the Google home page. Click HERE for your FREE DOWNLOAD!

By Theresa Wrangham

Four and half years ago my best friend Sue Thomas and I gave an Autism 101 presentation to a local software company who had called our ASA chapter to ask why children with autism liked their software program - SketchUp. After looking at SketchUp, it was clear that this 3D modeling software used by architects, engineers, game developers and other design professionals played to the visual and spatial strengths of people on the spectrum. These humble beginnings led to so much more for children with autism. Following our presentation, we were amazed to learn that employees wanted to donate their time to work with our chapter to understand the needs of our children and they ultimately created "Project Spectrum" (HERE).

Along the way, this company was acquired by Google, which supported the continued efforts to introduce SketchUp to children with autism.

Today Project Spectrum is an ongoing initiative at Google working to provide people on the autism spectrum with software and guidance that may help them to express an idea or even develop a life skill, and the Boulder, Colorado chapter of the Autism Society of America continues to act as a resource for Project Spectrum. It was especially inspiring to our chapter that when the program was officially launched in 2007 and teachers from across the globe sent comments about how excited they were by the potential of this free educational tool.

How has this program improved the lives of our children – that is hard to gauge and I can only speak from personal experience. My daughter Rachel uses SketchUp at home to relax and as a way to relate to and engage with her sister, a budding architect. Recently her skills were recognized when she accepted a paid internship with Cornell University in which she used SketchUp to help a team design a video game to be used for autism-related research. For Rachel, SketchUp has given her career direction and this year she will receive her two-year certification in Multi-Media that will transfer as college credit for an Associate Degree in Multi-Media when she graduates from high school next month. As a result of this direction, Rachel has also been exposed to other graphics programs, has developed a portfolio that receives high praise and has placed in graphic design competitions.

In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, Google is recognizing Project Spectrum on the Google home page (HERE). With so many programs that could be chosen, I believe that this is an honor bestowed to few Google programs. I hope that many will join me in thanking Google for their efforts, as Project Spectrum is not a program that makes Google, or its employees any money, and is solely a philanthropic effort (HERE) for the benefit of our children.

Theresa Wrangham is the mother of Rachel, a teenager who is diagnosed with PDD/NOS, and Deanna. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Scott. She brings to the fore an experienced parent's perspective on raising a healthy child affected by ASD and the benefits of advocacy outside family needs. Theresa was appointed to the Board of SafeMinds in 2007 and currently serves as president. She served as a past Board Member with the Autism Society of Colorado and co-founded the Autism Society of Boulder County (ASBC), serving five terms as president. She is currently the immediate past president. Theresa is also the Director of Educational Development and Conference Liaison for the US Autism & Asperger Association.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Wow! Awesome Kim. I will have to check this out.

Cath said...

I downloaded and will be trying out Friday night after my little computer hog goes to sleep...