Thoughts on ‘Apps for Autism’

iPad on Tanmay's jeans


Photo by Chirantan Patnaik

First a disclaimer: I don’t work with patients with autism, in fact I haven’t done so since grad school, and even then I only worked with the population sparingly. iPads on the other hand, are awesome, and I use mine daily (much to my wife’s chagrin) for nearly everything (including this post) besides treatment (unless you count documentation, for which I use an iPod Touch), and that’s only because it doesn’t make much sense for my setting, not yet anyways (this is the point where I stop making parenthetical statements). But I am a speech pathologist and I do know a thing or two about communication, and that’s why I watched last Sunday’s 60 Minute segment, Apps for Autism, with much anticipation and excitement. I generally have respect for the show, but at the end, I just felt ‘meh’ about the whole piece. And let me tell you why.

When you watched the segment, did you notice the peeps with autism struggling and ultimately failing to use paper letter boards to communicate, which was immediately followed by the same person using the iPad exceptionally well to convey their message? This scenario was shown a few times throughout the piece and it felt like an As Seen On TV infomercial. Besides that, it completely ignored the decades worth of research and development that has been done in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). It’s as if the Lightwriter, Dynavox, Prentke Romich, Tobii-along with a host of other companies-devices have never existed. That the idea of using technology to help people communicate is one that is original to the iPad. And that, of course, is rubbish.

It also seemed to prescribe the iPad as a panacea for autism treatment, you know, just give the kid an iPad and he’ll be on his way to communicating and that it’ll unlock an new and undiscovered portal into their minds that we never knew existed. Forget the fact that the successful use of AAC devices require training, especially for those with cognitive deficits, and forget that speech pathologists and special education teachers are needed to foster language development and literacy skills in order for the iPad to even be a viable option. A Twitter friend, @JohnduBois, said it right: “I felt it ignored the point that AAC is a tool and requires proficient users and teachers-too much “Apple magic”. Indeed sir, indeed.

And what was with that lady doing hand-over-hand assistance with the kid who had no apparent interest in the task? It was way too reminiscent of facilitated communication, and we evidence-based practitioners do no want to go there. Most likely, and hopefully, she was simply providing cues and trying to engage the kid in activity, but I cringe at even the slightest hint of FC.

For all of 60 Minute’s shortcomings, it must be said that the iPad is most definitely an inspiring piece of technology, and it is capable of capturing the attention of of children and adults alike with its boundless applications. But we need to be mindful that when teaching social skills to children, we teach them to use turn-taking skills, theory mind and what have you with people and not machines. If a child is captivated by the iPad and is able to direct their attention to something purposeful and meaningful, that’s great, but its all for naught if those skills do not generalize to the world at large.

The iPad is a wonderful and powerful tool, and has numerous applications for autism treatment, and the broader speech pathology and special education fields as well. But let’s place our focus on the end goal and not the bright and shiny gadgets that serve to facilitate such goals, lest we become victims of the latest fad and fail to view the iPad for what it is: a tool.

(This post originally appeared on slowdog)

 

Adam Slota M.A., CCC-SLP is a speech pathologist working in long term care and long term acute care settings, primarily with tracheostomy and ventilator dependent patients. He is also the author of the blog slowdog where he writes about various topics in speech pathology and beer, among other frisky and/or mundane missives.

 

 

Boo! Halloween Idea Treats

Halloween Tree


Photo by H_Elise.

Since it’s almost Halloween I thought I’d “treat” ASHAsphere readers to a roundup of some Halloween-themed blog posts and resources, as shared with @ASHAweb on Twitter:

Know of other posts, activities, or apps for Halloween? Please share in the comments.

QR Codes Part 2: Using Kaywa to Generate a QR Code

In part one of this series, I described what a QR Code is, where you might have seen them, and their potential for grabbing the attention of our students.

Today, I am going to talk about Kaywa, a free site that you can use to generate and print a QR code for use in a session.

Kaywa is simple to use.  You can type or cut/paste a website URL (address) and create a code that, when scanned, will open the web browser on the device (smartphone, iPod Touch, iPad) or you can enter a short piece of text (e.g. a word with a target sound, vocab word or definition, contextual info, or a strategy you want the student to use).

1. Choose the Content type (generally you will use URL or Text)
2. For URL, you may copy and paste the URL from another window or tab (just make sure to delete http:// from the URL field before pasting (so you don’t end up with http://http:// at the beginning of your code, which would be an invalid URL.

 

3. Click Generate!

 

Here’s your code! Click on it and you will see it by itself on a page in printable form.
Like This.
Select File>Print from your browser and you will be able to print the code for scanning. You can also right-click(PC) or control-click(Mac) to copy or save the QR Code image.Here’s a short video showing these steps.  Have fun!!

(This post originally appeared on SpeechTechie)

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He consults on the topic of technology integration in speech and language and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

I’m Packing my Bags!

[ T ] Cristóbal Toral  - Colorful Suitcases


Photo by Cea.

I love to travel.  So much so that the destination hardly matters—near, far, domestic, international.  I love it all.

I adore hotels, especially good hotels.  I like the little wrapped soaps, the feeling of clean sheets pulled really taut and don’t get me started on the wonders of room service.

And while I really enjoy the time on the road, I’m equally fond of the planning—choosing routes, destinations, sites, etc.  A couple years ago, we decided to take a two week road trip and I fully planned (and by this I mean I had typed, printed itineraries) two different trip options so the family could vote.  (Yes, I can be difficult to live with, but it’s really great to travel with me!)

So I’m very excited about attending the ASHA convention this year.  I’ve never been to San Diego (hooray!).  I’m booked at a fancy hotel (yippee!). Conventions require scrupulous reading of session topics and scheduling (whee!).

I’ll admit I approached the on-line convention scheduler with some trepidation.  I really like reading through the old fashioned convention programs.  I like the idea of kismet.  Though I work with pediatrics, primarily on articulation and language issues, something outside of that realm might tickle my fancy.  What if there is a research study involving geriatrics whose communication skills stayed sharp through red wine and mystery novels?  I want to be there!  Is there something involving animals and communication?  Count me in!  What about bizarre Oliver Sacks type stuff?  Please save me a seat!

So plugging in keywords, topic area and tracks seemed too limiting in some ways.  But I dutifully persevered.  I plugged in topics.  I selected interesting sessions.  I downloaded the info.  Uh-oh.  I had lots of double and triple booked sessions and big gaps in between.  I can go back and search by date only trying to fill in some holes, but that seems rather cumbersome.

And the scheduler shows a printed itinerary with only session numbers.  So I found myself paging back and forth trying to figure out what I had selected and which of the 2 or 3 would get my time.  Another uh-oh.  Several of the times on my itinerary don’t match that on the session description.  I’m assuming the session description is the correct one.  Huh.  Oversight on my part.  I didn’t realize that a course I “selected” is actually a short course.  Or actually I did, but didn’t register the fact that this meant an additional fee and separate registration to secure my spot.  I’m still debating that one.  At this point, I’m about 80% sorted out.

The last convention I went to (Chicago 2008) I ran around like the Energizer bunny trying to maximize my continuing education hours.  This time I arrive with all my hours completed and, while I’m eager to gain more knowledge, I’m planning to maximize the experience.  So this means getting to the zoo and probably an art museum.  I’m leaving myself enough time for lunch to enjoy the San Diego Bay Food and Wine Festival.  I’ll sleep in one morning and order room service.  I leave a couple hours open for kismet.

Are you coming?   Let me know where you’ll be!

(Kim is one of the official ASHA Convention bloggers! Stay tuned for more insights from her and the other bloggers before, during and after convention.)

 

Kim Lewis M.Ed, CCC-SLP has a private practice for pediatrics in Greensboro, NC. She is the blogger at www.activitytailor.com, providing creative ideas for speech therapy, and the author of the Artic Attack workbook series.

What is EHDI-PALS?

Baby Profile


Photo by PinkStock

The first few days after a baby’s birth can be some of the happiest for a growing family. Even so, the parents can have a certain amount of anxiety associated with caring for the newborn once it is home.  They worry about the car seat placement, feeding and nursing issues, whether the baby sleeps through the night…and on and on.  Today, infant hearing screening prior to hospital discharge is the standard of care because of the recognized benefits of early detection of hearing loss within the first year of life.

So imagine the increased concern parents have when bringing home an infant who may not hear well.  Modern society provides ready access to health information online.  Families may jump onto the internet searching for information without much prior knowledge of hearing loss.  Information gathered this way may be outdated, biased or incorrect.  By the time a family reaches an appropriate pediatric audiology facility they may well be armed with poorly-filtered information that could be confusing or just plain wrong.  At this point in time, it may be necessary for audiologists to provide additional informational and adjustment counseling.

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists know that improved speech and language communication outcomes are possible when hearing loss is identified and managed early in life. The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention process (EHDI) guides professionals and families in reaching these outcomes.  The goals of EHDI are to identify the hearing loss before hospital discharge, diagnose and confirm the hearing loss using advanced testing equipment and provide early access to auditory sounds through modern technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants within six months of age.

How does a family locate audiology services?

EHDI-PALS will be a national web-based directory of pediatric audiology facilities designed to assist families and professionals in the EHDI process. Not all pediatric facilities are alike or have the equipment or services required by a child at a given time. For example, some facilities do not provide cochlear implant services and others only to children over three years of age.  The directory will contain detailed descriptions of pediatric audiology facilities and centers and will facilitate searching for appropriate services across the country.

The EHDI-PALS website development is in progress and is expected to go “live” in mid-2012. The site will contain links to reliable web information on childhood hearing loss, questions for families to ask the audiologists about where to go for hearing services and the EHDI process, and the EHDI-PALS directory.

The desired outcome for EHDI-PALS is to connect families with services that are family-centered and that create seamless professional audiology service provision across the early years of a child’s life.  Go to www.ehdipals.org and watch the website grow and build.

 

Pamela Mason, M.Ed., CCC-A is the director of audiology professional practices at the ASHA national office. Before working at ASHA, she directed the Audiology Center at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington DC.