Friday, August 26, 2011

Virtual Education Targets Rise of Autism

When bullying in her teenage daughter’s Maryland public school became too intense, Ruth Zanoni decided to try home-schooling, using online education as a supplement. Ms. Zanoni’s daughter, now 14, has Asperger syndrome, often described as a high-functioning form of autism. She was academically advanced in some subjects, such as writing and literature, but was sometimes overwhelmed by sensory stimulus. And her lack of social skills made her a target for bullying. At home in Howard County, Ms. Zanoni’s daughter did well pursuing math through videos from Khan Academy, a not-for-profit provider of online educational videos and activities, and working on her social skills using an online role-playing game, but she faltered taking French and then Italian online. Ms. Zanoni said she had to work hard to keep her daughter on task online and felt she needed additional face-to-face support. Ms. Zanoni eventually found a private school that specialized in working with students like her daughter. “There’s a huge value to online education [for students with autism], but it depends on how it’s introduced and the nature of the person,” Ms. Zanoni said.

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