When Google created free, web-based 3D-modeling software called Sketchup, their intended audience was probably people like architects, landscapers and interior designers.
But it turns out that Google was getting a lot of phone calls and emails from families of kids with autism explaining how much their children loved using it.
Google looked into the phenomenon and realized that the software actually helps people who are gifted with visual and spacial thinking - as many individuals with autism are - express that talent in ways that pencil and paper might not.
So they created a program to show teachers how to use Sketchup as a tool to inspire and facilitate creative expression with kids on the spectrum.
Ben might still be a bit young to experiment with this, but I'm completely intrigued by the videos and plan to introduce it to him at some point. I think there are some 3D railroad layouts in our future.
(A note of thanks to my new colleague Adam N. in New York for pointing this out to me.)
Elsewhere on the interwebz, check out Hyperlexicon fave Paul Collins' most recent blog post for not one, but two click-worthy links.
First, he has a nice article in Cookie magazine about hosting an autistic child at a birthday party (which works well, I might add, as a counterpart to my birthday party essay that was recently resurrected.)
Second, he links to a research article that explains why individuals with autism experience an improvement in communication abilities during episodes of fever. To which most parents of children on the spectrum will say, "I told you so."