Monthly Archives: December 2014

Why Simply Getting an iPad is Not Enough

By: Kate Dansereau

I hear it so often: “We NEED an iPad!” Everyone thinks that their son, daughter, student, classroom, consumer, etc. needs to have an iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I love the iPad. I think it is an excellent piece of technology and has many uses that can support individuals with Autism.  I think Apple has been receptive and proactive in customizing and adapting settings for the iPad for people living with disabilities. I think there are many app developers who have created comprehensive and robust apps specifically for people with Autism. However, I do not think that the iPad is the answer for everyone.  I also think before anyone pursues getting an iPad for a person with Autism, they need to consider the following questions:

  1. Is the iPad the right fit for this person? We all know that when it comes to Autism, there is no cookie cutter approach. So why are we looking at Assistive Technology (AT) as a one size fits all approach? There are many things to consider when looking to obtain AT for a person with Autism.  There are many different types of technology available and the iPad is just one of many.  The iPad utilizes a touch technology.  This is very intuitive and immediate platform.  For some people this is great. For others, it is not a good fit.   It requires fine motor control to isolate the spot to touch and then additional motor control to press and release at the right spot with the proper timing.  Touch and swipe is not necessarily an easy gesture for all to perform (just ask my Mom trying to look at pictures on my smartphone.) There are many other platforms to consider including computers, stand alone communication devices and even low tech solutions like visual schedules made on good old laminated paper and Velcro.
  2. What do you want this person to be able to accomplish with the iPad that they are unable to perform now? I think this is probably the most unasked question in AT. I have met so many people who needed to have an iPad in their life and it has become either abandoned or a very expensive Angry Birds handheld game.  It is crucial to know exactly what you are hoping to achieve by integrating an iPad into a person’s life.
  3. Can everyone receive proper training? It is very important that not only the person using the iPad, but also the people who support them receive proper training on using the iPad to the best of it’s ability.  I have also met many people who think since they own an iPad or an iPhone that they know all they need to know. I have also yet to meet someone with that belief that I haven’t been able to teach something new to. It is so important for support people and family to understand why the person is using the technology in order to support them effectively.  There needs to be a unified belief and approach across environments in order for the use of any AT system to be successful and sustainable.
  4. Will the person like this technology? If a person needing  support does not like the device you are asking them to use, they will not use it. It’s unfair of us to assume that they would, just because it is available to them

There are many more considerations to keep in mind when choosing technology as a support for a person with Autism. This process should really be guided by an Assistive Technology Professional who can perform the proper assessments and provide some trials and support.

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It’s the Holidays Again..

The Holidays are here again. I cannot believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away. For our kids on the Autism Spectrum the holiday season can be very anxiety provoking and chaotic. Changes in their typical routines contribute to more anxious days and nights.  For some kids it can be very overwhelming from a sensory

perspective especially with all the lights, sounds and smells that we all attribute to the holiday season. It takes a lot of extra thought and planning to help our kids hopefully not only tolerate these circumstances but actually enjoy themselves(hopefully, anyway).

It is important to try to prepare your child based on their ability to tolerate different experiences. In my case, having twins with Autism means trying to make it fun for each of them based on their own individual issues. One of my sons really enjoys this time of year. He loves the extra cooking, baking and home decorating that happens in my house. He loves having Christmas at our house where my family gathers for a full day of eating, playing board games and more eating.

My other son while he enjoys some aspects of Christmas like the baking and Christmas lights really gets overwhelmed with visitors and family taking over his space and routine especially on Christmas day when I host Christmas at our home.

It is important for him to have “alone” time throughout the day where he relaxes in his room. He typically will join the festivities when he is ready after these short breaks on his own. He has been known to bring people their shoes and jackets sending them the message it’s time to go. It’s important to try to understand how overwhelming the holidays can be for our kids.

One thing they both enjoy doing with me is choosing their holiday themes for their bedrooms. I also try to involve them in choosing different cookie recipes and Christmas presents for school staff and family members. They will be offered several choices for these types of things through pictures symbols and text. I feel like this helps them prepare and understand that the holidays are coming. I also use a calendar showing the countdown to Christmas.

This is where I feel using different visual systems helps a lot whether it be a social story, calendar, visual schedules, etc.

Quite often people will ask what they should get our kids for the holidays. I realize that buying Christmas gifts for our kids can be challenging not only for ourselves, but for friends and family members too. I suggest being as candid as possible with them if you are comfortable doing it. I think if your child does not like or want whatever that year’s hot toy is, it is important to think outside of the box. Some suggestions that you can give to people may be an Amazon gift card to buys apps, gift certificates to zoos and museums, aqua therapy and hippotherapy, even a hotel with a pool for a one day family vacation could be an option (one of the best gifts that we got). Most people appreciate these type of suggestions knowing that you will actually use them vs. playing a guessing game on what our kids may possibly like.

It may take some additional thought and planning, but in the end it’s well worth it if our kids not only survive but maybe actually enjoy the holidays too. Happy Holidays!