Autism and Technology Conference (London)

The Autism and Technology Conference specifically addresses the types of technology available to autistic people and how it can help in their lives and the professionals who support them. Advances in technology mean that it can now be used as a great tool to help people learn and develop new skills whilst also working as a platform for autistic individuals to communicate more easily and freely with other people. The purpose of the conference was to give attendees the tools and knowledge to support and help autistic people with technology. It looked at how technology can be used to facilitate real life interactions and where technology is heading in the future.


This conference was organised by The National Autistic Society, as part of the Program Autism and New technologies coordinated by FIRAH and supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

Trailer of the Autism and new technology - Conference

Digital autism: Participatory design and the autistic community

Speaker : Professor Mark Brosnan, Professor of Psychology, Bath University

This presentation discusses some of the digital technologies currently in use, from apps through to robots and virtual reality, which are being developed to support the autistic community. This is based on the understanding that autistic people have a ‘digital affinity’ and talent for using digital technologies, which can be used to address relative weaknesses associated with autism. Within this context, Professor Mark Brosnan asses the role of ‘participatory design’ as a principle of involving the people who the technology is being developed for, throughout the design and the development process. Professor Brosnan also outlines the beginning of an exciting new international project called ‘BETA: Building Evidence for Technology & Autism’, which is seeking to answer questions around how do we know if a digital intervention works or not, and what constitutes as good evidence?

Virtual Reality Headmounted Displays for Autistic Children in Classrooms

  • Dr Nigel Newbutt, Senior Lecturer and Senior Researcher in Digital Education, University of the West of England
  • Lian Conley, Assistant Principal, Mendip School, The Partnership Trust

This presentation provides some context to using head-mounted display (HMD) technology with autistic children; the potential benefits and why this technology has/is being applied. The speakers cover the evidence for using such technologies, in addition to sharing a recent project that examined the role of virtual reality headmounted displays in classrooms. This includes a case study with examples of how children responded to virtual reality headsets (and environments) including potential benefits to their education, social skills and communication endeavours. The presentation concludes with future areas of development, implications for practice and ways to successfully engage with, and embed virtual reality, into the curriculum.

Virtual Reality Headmounted Displays for Autistic Children in Classrooms (Panel Discussion)

Moderator : Nicola Herbertson, Founder of
Speakers :
  • Professor Mark Brosnan, Professor of Psychology, Bath University
  • Dr Nigel Newbutt, Senior Lecturer and Senior Researcher in Digital Education, University of the West of England
  • Lian Conley, Assistant Principal, Mendip School, The Partnership Trust

Following on from the presentation, the panellists take questions from conference delegates, to explore different perspectives on and discuss further the use of headmounted display (HMD) technology with autistic children. The three panellists, as experts in their respective field of autism and tech, converse with the audience about the positive future of technology for autistic children, and the role of collaboration with autistic people in developing these technology tools. Questions also engage further with the research projects as outlined in the accompanying talk, to understand further the methodologies used, the results, and how they can be applied to other settings where autistic children can benefit from the use of technology.

Online Safeguarding- Keeping safe online

Speaker : Connor Ward, Autistic Vlogger

Connor was diagnosed with autism at 18 years old. He has been making videos on YouTube since 2016 and has been uploading at least once a week ever since. In this seminar, Connor talks about how autism is a big part of his channel, and his passion for sharing his tips and struggles in navigating social media as an autistic young adult in the 21st Century. In being open about his experiences, Connor hopes to educate those less
aware about autism, whilst supporting other people on the spectrum.

Improving Quality of Life- The Anxiety App

Speaker : Prof Emily Simonoff, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London

Studies have shown that autistic children have a higher level of mental health levels compared to the general population, particularly with attention, behaviour, and emotions. In order to meet this need, Professor Emily Simonoff discusses how her team has developed an app as a toolkit to support autistic people, parents and carers to understand their anxiety and use strategies to overcome their difficulties. The anxiety
toolkit is being tested with different autistic people to develop information that can be personalised to each person’s needs and made available as a mobile app. In this presentation Professor Simonoff discusses the toolkit, the need for this project, and how this project is making a difference.

Autistic-like traits and cyber-dependent crime

Speaker : Professor Mark Brosnan, Professor of Psychology, Bath University

There is anecdotal evidence that those with higher levels of autistic-like traits (and autism) can be associated with enhanced digital skills and potentially cyberdependent crime (crime you need a computer for, such as hacking). Professor Mark Brosnan discusses further this link, the potential reasons for, and the challenges to this correlation. Within this topic, Professor Brosnan references a recent online survey of 175 people, which investigated whether there are relationship variables between those who demonstrate autistic like traits with higher computer literacy and their online activities, illegal and non-illegal. These findings are discussed with reference to the implications for autism.

Gaming for good

Speaker : Keith Stuart Games Editor at the Guardian, Author and father to autistic son

Keith Stuart is a gaming journalist whose son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2012. His best-selling novel, A Boy Made of Blocks (2016), was inspired by Keith's real-life relationship with his autistic son through gaming. In this talk, Keith shares his experience of the value of gaming as a powerful sharing, self- expression, and communication tool for autistic children. Keith also discusses how far the gaming industry has come along in recent years to respond to the need for greater diversity and inclusion, in game design
and development.

Design Your Life! Reflecting on co-designing empowering technologies with autistic young adults

Speaker : Dr Jelle Van Dijk, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering Technology, University of Twente

In this talk Dr Van Dijk presents a number of critical co-design research studies. These studies figure new concepts for interactive technologies, designed to support young autistic adults in living independently. Based on these case studies, he argues for rejecting some conventional ideas of technology as instructing, as training or as ‘persuading’ people to perform in desirable, normative ways. Instead, he argues for a new type of interactive technology designed to become an adaptive reflective scaffold. With such scaffolds young adults on the spectrum may develop their own supportive “lifeworlds”. Dr Van Dijk discusses some of the implications of this conceptual reframing both for care practices as well as for assistive technology design.