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Apps for Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month.  

Many people with autism find assistive technology hugely beneficial for all sorts of purposes. Some people use dedicated speech generating devices but many use a mainstream device such as an iPad and install apps which fall broadly into the categories of:

  • communication
  • social skills
  • emotional regulation
  • learning
  • academic and work

There are a couple of really good Australian resources to help parents, carers and therapists to make good choices about apps.  See our earlier post on choosing apps.

Bronwyn Sutton of BEST Autism Therapy has created a very comprehensive guide which she updates constantly.

Craig Smith of Autism Pedagogy has a blog post here with an overview of useful apps.

If you are just starting the iPad journey, you will want to think about:

  • goals for iPad use
  • size and memory capability
  • protection with a good case
  • wifi and cellular or wifi only
  • training for user, carers and therapists
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How to use the iPad as an Assistive Technology device

Recently our accessibility team was approached by the Queensland-Government-funded Community Care Smart AT Collaborative with a request to present some webinars on assistive technology use with Apple devices.

Check out the Community Care Smart AT Collaborative’s portal which is designed as a place for training, information-sharing and collaboration on smart assistive technology and is open for anyone interested to register and use.

Please find below the two webinars presented so far.

The iPad: A Powerful Smart Assistive Technology

 

The iPad: How this Device can Assist Individuals with Vision Impairment

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Eye gaze on Mac or iPad?

What is eye gaze?iris_-_left_eye_of_a_girl

Eye gaze technology is a method of communication which uses tracking of eye movements.  It is typically used by people whose other physical motor skills are not reliable, i.e. they’re unable to speak intelligibly or use hand or switch control to operate a communication device. It can also be called gaze interaction, gaze-based assistive technology or eye control

How does it work?

The user learns skills such as using their eyes to scan through options on the screen and dwell on a chosen word or symbol.  A special camera tracks these movements and moves or selects accordingly.

The two common ways an eye gaze system is set up are:

What does it cost?

Prices vary.  An eye tracking camera and software paired with a mainstream tablet or computer could cost around $5000 whereas one of the dedicated SGDs with added camera and software may be more in the $20 000 range. Both of the set ups have pros and cons.

Can eye gaze technology run on a Mac?

Yes

A user with a Mac running Parallels or Boot Camp can access Windows programs but only the Windows progams.

No

At this point in time, none of the eye gaze software programs are compatible with MacOS.

Maybe

The latest version of Mac’s operating system, MacOS Sierra, includes the option of enabling Dwell Control.  When the Mac is paired with eye gaze hardware, the user can perform mouse actions such as right click and left click, drag and drop and scroll.

A promising new product is the Eye Tribe Tracker which claims to be compatible with MacOS Sierra. Watch this space for updates.

Can eye gaze technology run on an iPad?

Not at this point in time but we can hope.

How can we help?

If you are looking for an eye gaze system, do some research, decide what’s going to work the best for you and get in touch.

We can offer consultancy, set up and installation and after sales service on your device.  We can also source devices for you.

Useful links:

Information from Apple on Dwell Control

https://support.apple.com/kb/PH25153?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s helpful guide to eye gaze

https://www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/about-cerebral-palsy/interventions-and-therapies/eye-gaze-technology-for-children-and-adults-with-cerebral-palsy/#1473737854053-0ad0e066-5c07

Zyteq – Melbourne based eye gaze technology specialist

www.zyteq.com.au

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What does an accessibility consultant do?

Thinking of requesting a consultation? Here are some things that might help you to know what to expect.

people-woman-coffee-meeting

  1. Our consultants’ goal is to assist you in finding some solutions involving assistive technology to help you do the things you want to do in your life, whether that’s communicate with others, live independently, thrive at school or at work, travel, play sport etc. etc.
  2. Our consultants are available to travel to your home, school and/or workplace in the south east Queensland area.
  3. All our consultants have done training through Apple and other providers about technology and accessibility.
  4. All our consultants hold Blue Cards and have undergone criminal checks.
  5. We have male and female consultants available because some people have a preference about who they feel comfortable sharing details of their lives with.
  6. Our consultants do not operate on a commission, so there is no financial advantage for them in trying to sell products to you.
  7. A consultancy session normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour.  There is a base charge of $110 and then $1.75/minute or $104/hour.
  8. The consultant will run through an assessment process with you and a carer/loved one if you would like someone else to be present, gathering information on your goals, strengths and challenges and the contexts in which you want to use your devices.
  9. The consultant will make some initial suggestions, show you some images and explain some of the technologies which may be appropriate.
  10. After the session, the consultant will email his/her recommendations with full costing, including costing for installation, set up and ongoing support. There is no obligation for you to proceed with this quote.
  11. All our consultants are friendly and understanding!

Please email accessibility@macandpcdoctors.com.au or call 07 3892 2227 to arrange a consultation or make any other accessibility inquiries.

 

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Apps for early literacy and fine motor control

I was recently asked for the names of some apps to support literacy and letter awareness. Of course there are many ways to help children develop these skills and the iPad is just one method but it is an engaging tool in the toolbox for literacy learning. Prices are in Australian dollars and are correct as of September 2016. 256px-child_with_apple_ipad-212x300
My criteria in choosing the list below were:
  • evidence based theory behind the methods
  • engaging but not over-stimulating

Apps for early phonics

  • Hairy Letters (Nessy Learning Ltd) –  $5.99  (Anything by Nessy is great!)
  • Phonics Under the Big Top (Celeste Musgrave ) – $2.99

Apps for learning sight words

  • Phonics Read CVC (Joe Scrivens) – $2.99 or in a bundle with other apps for $5.99
  • Hairy Words (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99

App bundles

There are two bundles of phonics and sight word apps which are excellent.
  • Tools for Teaching Reading (Reading Doctor) – $129.99 for the bundle of 6, $24.99 each
  • OzPhonics (DSP Learning Pty Ltd) – $7.99 for the bundle, $1.99 or $2.99 each.

Apps for tracing letters

  • School Writing (demografix pty ltd) – $7.99 (Uses Australian states’ handwriting fonts)
  • iWriteWords (gdiplus) – lite or $4.49
  • Little Writer Pro (Innovative) – $2.99
  • Ready to Print (Essare LLC) – $14.99
Most of these have an Australian or English voice which is probably less confusing for Australian children than an American voice
© Jacqui Kirkman, 2016
MEd, Grad Dip Teaching (Primary), BA
Specialist Literacy Teacher
Apple Professional Learning Specialist
Photo credit: By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons