Project Spectrum

My mother has been a special education aid for as long as I can remember, and a majority of the children that she has worked with have autism. Being around these children a lot myself evoked a passion in me as well — which led me to take several psychology classes in college to better understand what autism truly is. Therefore, when I saw that Google had recently launched a program called Project Spectrum aimed at utilizing and tapping the aptitude many people with autism possess — I was immediately enthralled.

The idea for Project Spectrum spawned from numerous phone calls and emails from educators and parents explaining how valuable Google’s SketchUp tool was proving to be for children with autism. People with autism tend to see things differently from many of us — in fact, they actually think in pictures. Therefore, 3D design software (like SketchUp) helps to bring out their talent and creativity, arming them with special tools to make this possible.

In order to provide even more opportunity and further understand how those with autism tend to think, Google partnered with the Autism Society of America and the Lifelong Learning Lab at the University of Colorado to design Project Spectrum. The purpose of Project Spectrum is to help autistic people tap their inner gifts and develop life-long skills.

When a person with autism is assigned a task, it is actually very difficult for them to complete, even though it may seem very straightforward. This video highlights four children who all found success using Google’s SketchUp software. However, after initially being given the task to draw a floor-plan of a room or house by hand, these children were struggling. With the help of this 3D software, all of these children far exceeded what was initially asked of them.

Google released Project Spectrum in April 2009, in honor of National Autism Awareness Month. This tool allows our society to draw on the gifts and talents that so many with autism possess, and will hopefully lead to a whole new pool of future architects and designers.