Bridges News — Tools for Living and Play

Eye Gaze packages trialled in Toronto classrooms

Eye Gaze packages trialled in Toronto classrooms 0

It’s the first day of school for a student in grade 1 who is non-verbal, who has complex cognitive and physical learning needs with an IEP that includes “deaf-blind” in its description.

Where do you begin?

In a trial that started in May 2015, Bridges supplied eye gaze systems in a number of classrooms in Toronto area schools. These were designated special needs classrooms in schools that had increased supports for students with more complex instructional needs.

2014 AT trends -- AT and the mainstream tech 0

This is the third of three posts about trends we see effecting AT in the coming months written by Bogdan Pospielovsky,  Business Development Manager at Bridges. What trends have we missed?  Comment, rant, rave or write directly to Bogdan,

The internet of things

The Nest, created by the design team behind the iPod, put the Internet of Things into mainstream consciousness, with shipments of 40,000 units /month. Smart, connected objects with wireless and mini computers on board have hit the mainstream zeitgeist with the launch (and swift $3.2 billion dollar purchase by Google) of the Nest thermostat. The Internet of Things could be a boon to anyone with limited mobility and the possibilities for improving independence for those with cognitive and sensory challenges are endless: automating basic tasks, notifying individuals of scheduled tasks, connecting with communication devices to launch task/object specific access or communication apps for a specific circumstance etc. etc. Ablenet has reviewed a couple, most recently the Belkin WeMo an iPhone/Android controlled electric  switch and the Phillips Hue, wireless lighting. [caption id="attachment_1369" align="aligncenter" width="300"]WeMo switch from Belkin WeMo switch from Belkin[/caption] The problem inhibiting the entry to this accessibility nirvana will be a familiar one;  competing and conflicting standards stymieing AT developers .  But expect the Internet of Things to open a whole new world of accessibility and support options that in the short term will tantalize people working in the field of AT.

The rise of word prediction

Word prediction (WP) and rate reduction is now about two decades old and like any technology has seen its popularity wax and wane.   Over the past decade computer power caught up to voice recognition's (VR demands and word prediction was built into more and more AT as a feature. Unfortunately word prediction quality varies wildly in performance and usefulness depending on the particular software.  So word prediction not working for a student because of the quality of prediction often effected its recommendation. Anyway, why bother with WP if you can just use voice recognition and ditch the keyboard entirely? What’s changing that perception?  Two factors.  A realization that inconsistent success with VR might not be because of a lack of technology performance, but because it might not address the writing challenge the student has. The other factor is that word prediction is becoming more common and useful in handheld devices like smartphones and tablets, inspiring people to give it another look.  Inexpensive quality iPad versions of Co:Writer and other word predictors means users can more easily look at all the word predictor tools and pick one that works well for them in whatever computing platform they use for generating text (iPad, Windows/Mac PC etc.).  And because Word Prediction is becoming more  ubiquitous in mainstream tech, it's less intimidating as a speciality tool.

Eye-gaze goes mainstream AT

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Eyegaze system in Penn Hall School in Wolverhampton UK.  Smartbox UK. Eyegaze system in Penn Hall School in Wolverhampton UK. Smartbox UK.[/caption] The price drops over the past three years of eye gaze technology has effected more than just AT funders.  Tobii’s PCEye Go is not just affordable at a less than $3000 price point, it is a simple USB plug-in which means school districts think of it as something manageable and supportable.  A lower price point reduces that intimidation factor.  Look to eye-gaze to continue to appear in classrooms as an accessibility tool.  Not just for physically challenged individuals but cognitive and sensory challenged students that usually would just have touch or switch scanning as an option:  girls with Rett’s syndrome, profound cognitive delay, etc.    That price also makes it available to school budgets for congregated classroom or resource rooms.  So we’ll probably see more eye-gaze in classrooms as an open access tool tied to the goal of the activity not just for the needs of one specific prescribed student. --Bogdan Pospielovsky

Oh Wow! Parents React to Medical Communication Book 0

Showing new communication tools for close to two decades, I've heard plenty of "Oh Wow’s" from parents. But two fairly recent products at opposing ends of the cost, and the hi/low tech spectrum, have produced more jaw drops and exclamations of “this will change my child’s life!” than I've ever experienced before.

One is eye-gaze technology;  seeing your kid quickly, easily work a computer with a hi-tech camera system when previously, nothing else worked is incredible and often moving.

The inside and back cover of Widgit's First Response Communication book.[/caption] But the other product that has consistently blown parents away – in this case parents with children on the autism spectrum – is The Widgit First Response Communication Book.

Widgit's First Response Communication book.

The inside and back cover of Widgit’s First Response Communication book.

The washable, durable medical communication book was designed for First Responders – ambulance crews, emergency room doctors, fire, police, etc.  The pages are so thoughtfully organized, that it is ideal for anybody who needs communication help in a medical scenario.

I was recently meeting with some parents of children on the autism spectrum who had experienced long hospital stays. They spent an hour recalling one procedure after another that should have been routine that turned into traumatic crises. Often, the root of the problem was mis-communication -- their children couldn't explain what they wanted or needed.  Just as common, the medical personnel couldn't convey what was going to happen and why.  The verdict of these parents was the same as what I’ve heard so many times before – The First Response Communication Book. would have solved so many problems.

Clarify Communication, Avoid Crisis:

Research presented at the 2013 Geneva Centre Autism symposium by researchers from Sickkids Toronto and Glenrose Hospital, Edmonton, (“Autism Comes to the Hospital: Experiences of Hospital Care from the Perspectives of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Their Parents and Health Care Providers,” Muskat, Roberts and Zwaigenbaum, et. al.) summarized the communication challenges patients with autism face in a hospital whether they were verbal or non-verbal.

“... how frustrating it must be to be non-verbal and in pain somewhere in your body and you can’t tell someone...”

The researchers found that stressful and intimidating hospital environment  dramatically effected patients ability to not only be understood but to understand what was being communicated to them. They recorded how when patients felt intimidated and anxious because of the medical setting, they will  often give the impression that they understand the doctor or nurse even if they didn't at all.

The result of this chronic mis-communication was anything from confusion, anxiety, to behaviours that resulted in the use of restraints and sedation.

“Unintentional Torture 

One parent at a conference described how difficult it was  for different nurses to understand that his son took needles in his right rather than his left arm.  “It was such a simple thing that would have made such a difference.  He could’ve just pointed to this picture here (gesturing at the Treatment section with the symbolized question “May I give you an injection...” in the First Response Communication Book), but instead ended-up in restraints. That’s a sort of unintentional torture.”

The First Response Communication book delivers quick and easy solutions for patients to communicate: A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

  • Pain – not just intensity but different types of pain (numbness, pins and needles etc.) and where it exists.
  • What’s wrong? – fall, injury, nausea, dizziness etc.
  • What happened?
Also responding to what doctors, nurses and any other caregivers try to communicate:
  • Explaining routine procedures – taking temperature, blood test, blood pressure.
  • Asking common questions:  when did you last eat, drink?  Event history for emergencies. Existing conditions and past medical history.
  • Describing what happens next – bandage,  injections, IV, ECG, going home, waiting for mom/dad etc.
The First Response Communication Book was recently purchased by the British Red Cross to go into every one of their ambulances.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky

ChooseIt Maker 3 is Coming – Online! 0

[caption id="attachment_1127" align="aligncenter" width="465"]Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 3.41.19 PM ChooseIt Maker 3 screen shot from YouTube video[/caption] ChooseIt Maker has been a perennial favourite of educators and therapists working with early and emerging learners for close to a decade.  A simple focused user interface meant anyone could easily create a wide variety of choice-making activities to develop memory, literacy, numeracy, time telling, categorization and social skills in just about any topic you could think of. Well, we just found out that ChooseIt Maker Version 3 (CM3) is coming soon via; there’s a sneak-peek demo video up on YouTube [check out the video here]. [caption id="attachment_1128" align="aligncenter" width="498"]Screen shot 2013-06-11 at 3.57.27 PM (2) ChooseIt Maker 3 Access options screen shot[/caption]

Looks like the CM3  interface has been updated to make their easy-to-use activity builder even easier. But as always, Inclusive Technology has an eye on the latest access technology --  eye-gaze supports are built right in.

In addition, not only will ChooseIt Maker 3 live online, but you’ll be able to run your activities on iPad and Android tablets.  It's nice to see developers  not limiting themselves to just one tablet platform.

No word on pricing or exact release dates, but I’ve got my password to take CM3 out on a test drive so it’s got to be pretty soon. I’m going to try to squeeze in some time this week and I’ll report back as soon as I can.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky