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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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Is a C-Pen right for my child?

What is a C-Pen Reader?

The C-Pen Reader pen scanner is a major technological breakthrough for anyone learning English or Spanish and is a life-saver for those who suffer from reading difficulties such as dyslexia. The C-Pen Reader is a totally portable, pocket-sized device that reads text out aloud with an English or Spanish human-like digital voice.

It’s a small, handheld device a similar size to a highlighter pen which:

  • runs on a rechargeable battery
  • doesn’t need internet to work
  • needs headphones to be used effectively
  • is unobtrusive in most settings
  • scans and reads text aloud immediately
  • can store scanned text
  • can give definitions of scanned words
  • can record voice notes
  • plugs into your computer with a USB connection to download scans and recordings

Who could a C-Pen be useful for?

The C-Pen reader is not much bigger than a highlighter
  • Children over about 8 years old and adults with a reading difficulty such as dyslexia who need to read printed material
  • People with low vision who need to read printed material
  • People with a cognitive disability who need to read printed material

Who is a C-Pen not recommended for?

C-Pen is not suitable for individuals who are not able to smoothly highlight a line of text because of vision or motor issues or because they have not yet reached that level of fine motor skill development.

Will my child be allowed to take a C-Pen reader to school?

It depends on the school’s attitude to the use of assistive technology but many children do take them to school and find that they are a useful, unobtrusive support which doesn’t disturb the rest of the class and doesn’t require the teacher to assist the child with reading information and instructions as much as may be the case without the C-Pen.

Will my child be allowed to use a C-Pen in an exam?

Almost certainly not but you may have a case for your child to be allowed to use an Exam Reader which looks similar to a C-Pen but has only one function: to scan and read text aloud. This provides support in understanding the questions in an exam without the possibility of accusations of cheating.

The only function of the Exam Reader is to scan text and read it aloud

Where can I get a C-Pen?

C-Pen Readers and Exam Readers are available in our online store.  The $390 cost includes postage and it will be shipped to you.  Sets of 10 are also available for schools or tutoring centres to purchase. Please email education@macandpcdoctors.com.au for more details.

Can I get a C-Pen using NDIS funds?

It depends on what has been approved in your plan.  The NDIS does not cover anything education related but may cover items which support daily living and independence.  A C-Pen could fall into the category of low cost and low risk assistive technology items (Level 1).  Items of this nature do not need a form to be sent into the NDIS. Participants with AT funded supports in their plan can seek advice and buy it themselves.

The Daily Adaptive Equipment (03_131_0103_1_1) line item under a participant’s CORE budget (Consumables support category) would be where you would claim these expenses. (Information from https://www.ndis.gov.au/providers/assistive-technology-faqs.html)

If you would like to purchase a C-Pen reader from us using NDIS funds, please make a request via the NDIS portal or email accessibility@macandpcdoctors.com.au to discuss first.

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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.