Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Zacbrowser and Autism

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

The Zacbrowser and Autism

June 30, 2008 – 5:52 pm by Brendan

Autism is one of those disorders that most people know about, but nobody really knows about. In general Autism is a disorder of varying magnitude that makes it difficult for the person to function in normal everyday society. I know that definition could be just about anything or anyone. And that is the one of the big overarching facet of autism, is that it can be and is different for almost every person who has the disorder.

Most people I have heard about or met who have autism generally get confused and or frustrated by too much stimulation. They may shut down or lash out depending on how bad they are affected by the distraction and how strong their autism. That is, what most of us see as slight distractions that are for the most part ignored, such as flashing ads on the sidebar of a web page, become annoyances that those with autism cannot block out.

Imagine now if you wanted to get on the Internet and play a few games. You may have to type in a web site correctly. (Don’t make a mistake you might not like what you find.) Then you might need to click on a link or two or three and each click is a choice between dozens or more. (I sometimes click 5 or 6 to get to a game for my kids to play). During all of this time you are being distracted by the hundreds of distracters that are the Internet. Now, imagine if each and every distracter you encountered made it impossible for you to concentrate on the task at hand.

Well, John LeSieur did think about that for his grandson. He saw the frustration first hand and decided that it wasn’t going to work. Being in the software business he decided to do something about it and wrote his own web browser. This Zac Browserallows his grandson to visit the World Wide Web in a way that is successful for him.

The Zac Browser simplifies the web experience immensely, so much so that I barely recognized it as a web experience. The Zac Browseruses the walled garden approach, meaning there is no address bar. Zac Browser cannot go anywhere on the web, rather the user can only click on the links provided but it allows the user to go to live content on the web and utilize the functionality of the content one might find on say, but not have to figure out how to get there.

The Zac BrowserI think is a great tool for not only for autistic children, but I can see using this for my own children who haven’t learned to read, but can use a mouse. The question is why did I publish this story on the GlobalScholar blog? What does it have to do with education?

It is simply that Zac is a 6 year old boy who needs and education. The challenge is how do we go about giving him the best education possible without infringing on the education of his classmates. The Zac Browseris one small way technology can be adapted to fit the need of the user.


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