Tag Archives: Child

Using Technology for Helping Your Child With Autism

Technology has entered almost all spheres of our lives. There are several smart phone apps today that help us to communicate a message easier, better, and faster. But how do individuals with autism spectrum disorder communicate or express their desires? While it seemed impossible at first, good Samaritans in the tech industry came up with autism learning apps like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” that addresses behavioral health issues. Enthused by the success of the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism learning apps, several other companies have come up with their own products.

Give a voice to your child

The customizable “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism learning apps help in translating the thoughts of your child into speech by lending them a voice through the system. These two apps leverage picture icons on the device. The icons, when touched, cause a voice output. The touch screen interface can be tailored to suit each individual child’s needs. Images related to words, as well as the most commonly used phrases, can be fed into the device. When a child types a word or a string of words, a voice output enables autistic children in identifying the words.

You can also personalize the experience by recording your own voice. As the autistic child develops, he/she may want to speak a newly acquired particular phrase. In such cases, autistic children simply need to launch the learning app, add or record a message connected to a particular image and the device would start reading out loud.

Learning the basic skills

The autism learning apps are a great help to your child to pick up language and other skills. These apps can also be used for teaching categorization, mathematics, daily living skills and even community safety lessons.

It’s also important to consider how you want to teach autistic kids to generalize what they have acquired from the autism learning apps and respond to natural environmental cues. They shouldn’t become dependent on the autism learning apps in later life.

Instant access to social stories

Short animations that depict various types of social skills and also impart lessons on social behavior, are another area in the domain of autism apps. Earlier, a new social story or lesson would have warranted the use of books and journals for content. But now, the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism learning apps can be connected to the internet directly. All training material can be downloaded sans any hassle.

Assistive Technology Advancements Offer A New Wave of Possibility For Your Child With Special Needs

Technology has a way of skidding from science fictions’ past into the present like Michael J Foxs’ Delorean in “Back to the Future”. Remember those sliding doors in Star Trek on the U.S.S. Enterprise? We take them for granted now. And every time I see someone flip open a cell phone and talk to someone, I expect to hear them say “Beam me up Scotty.” The day of live streamed video mail is coming soon -very soon. Every science fiction movie I ever saw had someone talking to someone else from a TV screen and we all laughed, yet today I heard that our IT department is supplying built in web-cams standard on all newly issued laptop models.

I had a real wide-eyed moment today and I have to share it with you. I watched our doctor wave a Dr. McCoy-Star Trek-type “tricorder” over my sons chest. “What IS that?” I had asked. The doctor explained that it would “re-align the electrical impulses that were out of sync so his respiratory infection could heal.”

“Seriously?” I thought to myself. This was real. My son thought it tickled and the doctor did the treatment until the levels on the front showed the body had re-calibrated. Just when you think you are getting a handle on things, something new pops up and surprises you.

I am a specialist in assistive technology. I see new things that come out on the market all the time. I have been following the research and development of mapping the neuro-network of the brain to pinpoint the combinations of impulses and electrical frequencies that make up hand, wrist and arm movements. There are studies right now on how to re-create these impulses in “bionic” arms that replace severed ones. The research will allow our human brain to operate the new appendage by thought.

I was at a national convention this fall where I sat and had an eye gaze unit wirelessly track my retina from four feet away. As I looked around, the cursor on a large flat computer screen moved in the same direction. The cost was huge, but the technology was there for someone who is severely disabled and wants to access life through a computer. I’m sure I saw Tom Cruise do that in a movie a couple of years ago.

There is no way any one person can know it all about any niche in technology anymore. The world is becoming more and more specialized. We have specialized services within specialized niches that are in specialized markets of specialized companies. It can get pretty crazy. I have heard predictions that there will come a time when a person with my job in general assistive technology will not be able to be an assistive technology specialist anymore. They will have to focus on a sub-category because the specialization will be so intense.

How does this apply to parents of children with disabilities? If you are a parent, You need to know a couple of things:

1. You should be comfortable in knowing that you can’t learn it all.

Don’t put yourself through guilt and frustration over this fact. Just get an overview of the services and equipment your child may need. Be prepared to say “I don’t know but I can find out.” That is my biggest phrase. I have learned how to find a needle in a haystack on the Internet when it comes to AT. I spend a great deal of my time online researching equipment, treatment, therapy or definitions and descriptions of medical disorders. Be ready to see the Internet as your best friend. There is so much information out there it is staggering.

Most people hate to waste time searching for information. They want it done for them. If you have a child with a disability, start searching and asking. There are answers out there. I don’t even pretend to think or want to bluff you into thinking that I know all there is. “All there is” changes every day. If I were to comment on occupational and physical therapy supports, new treatment for seizures and ADHD with neurofeedback for children using computer games and slot car race tracks, simulating virtual reality on the TV with a Wii, and so on, we would be here for the next 2 years – and by then 70% of what we knew would be obsolete and new technologies would have taken over.

2. There are new and limitless possibilities for young children with disabilities.

Where we are headed is going to be amazing. The textbooks need to be re-written on how we serve children because of the impact of technology in every aspect of education and special needs service delivery. If you are a parent of a small child today, the advances in technology to support are going to be incredible. It is a good time to be alive. You have options no one had before you. There is technology to support your child that is amazing. Take some time to look search blogs, forums and pod casts that talk about technology in education, assistive technology and trends in alternative medicine for neurofeedback. The technology associated with alternative medicine is gaining more respect as time goes on and shows great promise as it becomes a hybrid in collaboration with traditional medicine and treatment.

I imagine by the time you read this, I’ll need to be writing a second edition. That’s OK. As long as I don’t expect to ever catch up, I can relax and find the things that work. That is what serving children with assistive technology is all about anyway. Finding out what works to support kids.

Technology And Child Education

Techno-Toddlers

When I was a child, I was very up-to-date on the latest technology. I watched Sesame Street, followed by Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. My home received all the channels available – three local channels, and two PBS stations. I surfed the available programming by going over to the television, taking the pliers off the top of the TV, gripping the pin and twisting (the plastic dial had broken off years before my birth). Telephone calls could be made on our large, black rotary phone. During fifth grade, I played Pong and thought I was really onto something. We got an Atari 400, and I experienced my first educational programming: Lemonade Stand, while was a very early version of Roller Coaster Tycoon. Nowadays, a four-year-old could probably program that game while watching the latest episode of Dora the Explorer and surfing the Internet for accompanying website games to develop his map skills.

Technology can be both helpful and harmful for your children. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using technology with your kids:

Stimulation and Learning Toys

Computer games and toys that simulate computers can be very helpful for learning. Repetitive games that teach letters, numbers and reading can be great, and the graphics and music accompanying basic facts can help kids learn.

Be careful, however, not to let your child become over-stimulated by video-type toys. Reading books with each other is another great way to develop reading readiness, and playing with puzzles or basic toys is also good. You don’t want your child to depend on flashing lights and buzzers in order to learn new skills.

Health Risks

Video and computer games have been linked to vision impairment in children, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, addiction to these games is a very real consequence. It is extremely important to set time limits on gaming. While your child may develop some killer small motor skills, he could be ruining the nerves in his hands at the same time. Keep an eye on him (and his fingers).

Predators on the Net

The Internet is a remarkable learning tool. Work together with your child to research anything of interest. Most children’s programming also has websites with games and activities. There are also interactive sites where children build houses, care for pets, or submit writing.

Close parental supervision is of utmost importance when children are surfing the web. Chat rooms on kids’ sites are sometime prowled by child predators. If your child has an email address, monitor it carefully for spam and sexual content. Kids are naturally curious, but can get into a lot of grown-up trouble quickly if left to their own devices online.

Cell Phones

My daughter came home from fourth grade yesterday, begging for a cell phone. Since her teenage brothers both have phones, I assumed she just wanted to act older than her age. Not the case at all – over half her class has cell phones. The kids are talking, and texting at an incredible rate.

Cell phones can be a great communication tool. Kids communicate with each other and share their world via text and by taking and sending photos. The average ten-year-old is hooked into her world in a much bigger way than a few decades ago.

Parental monitoring is important here, too. Make sure your kids are still communicating in the old-fashioned way – face to face. Play dates and in-person interaction shouldn’t give way to texting. And texting or chatting shouldn’t get in the way of running around outside, riding bikes, reading, or doing homework.

Babies and Technology

Though television programming for babies exists, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not watch television at all. Too much stimuli may inhibit brain development. Also, experts maintain that babies should be bonding and interacting with family and caregivers – not watching a screen.

Some electronic toys emit high-pitched, loud noises that can permanently damage hearing. Test toys before buying.

Integrating your child’s learning with technology is a great idea and will give her a head start in the modern cyber-world. Just make sure to monitor activity and stay involved. Maybe if you ask her nicely, she’ll show you how to program the universal remote.