Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Improving communication skills for children with Down Syndrome iPad style

When our sons were babies, one of the first things our Early Intervention Specialist encouraged us to do was to teach our sons some basic sign language.  We taught them signs including "more", "all done", "cookie", "please".  Children with Down Syndrome usually develop speech later than the typical child.  By using sign language, we were able to add tools for Davey to communicate just as easily as his typically developing twin brother.

According to wikipedia.......

Specialized sign language is sometimes used to communicate with infants and toddlers. While infants and toddlers have a desire to communicate their needs and wishes, they lack the ability to do so clearly because the production of speech lags behind cognitive ability in the first years of life.[citation needed] Proponents of baby sign language say that this gap between desire to communicate and ability often leads to frustration and tantrums.[1][2] However, since hand–eye coordination develops sooner than acquisition of verbal skills, infants can learn simple signs for common words such as "eat", "sleep", "more", "hug", "play", "cookie", and "teddy bear" before they are able to produce understandable speech.[3]

But not with the development of the iPad, another tool is now accessible for parents to facilitate communication.

Here is some of the info I found.

iPads give children with Down syndrome a voice

Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:04

UCF recently partnered with the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida to offer iCan Communicate, a program designed to help children with Down syndrome who have limited speech capabilities. This program, which was held March 22-24, consisted of therapy sessions and clinics to test how children responded to iPad apps created to help them communicate.
“They didn’t want to be just handing out the same thing for every child because they really have individualized needs,” said Jennifer Kent-Walsh, associate professor in the Department of Communications and Science Disorders and director of Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology.
Various vendors that Kent-Walsh partnered with in the past donated the apps, which cost between $200 and $300 each.
One of these vendors, AssistiveWare, donated eight copies of its app Proloquo2Go, which is currently being used by 3-year-old Meredith Griffin.
Griffin has a rare case of esophageal atresia, a birth defect in which an infant is born without part of his or her esophagus, and a paralyzed vocal cord, which have caused her to have complications with her speech. She currently wears a trach, a breathing tube placed surgically into the trachea, to help her breathe, but it makes speaking even more difficult.
“She could possibly speak around [the trach], but now it looks like she has a paralyzed vocal cord, which takes more coordination for breathing and swallowing, it’s so much more work for her,” Meredith’s mother, Sonya Griffin, said. “She just doesn’t know how. Ever since she was 3 months old she’s had a trach. Speech never existed to this point. Meredith’s very smart. Her biggest deficit is that she doesn’t have a way to communicate. How frustrating is it when you can’t talk?”
UCF plans on continuing this program by holding fall and summer classes. The program is also in the process of creating follow-up classes for families that have already went through iCan Communicate to see how the child is adjusting and where improvement needs to be made.
Though Sonya said it’s been a challenge to get the app organized, she thinks that it will be able to grow with Meredith as she gets older.
“Her vocabulary is growing, and I can tell that she’s liking to be able to have a voice,” Sonya said.
Kent-Walsh said she’s seen improvement in the children who have used the technology, but it’s the continuous training and evaluation that is still needed. This way the children’s speech can develop to be more understood and so they can grow to be more independent.
“We’re excited about a lot the things that we’ve seen with these families, but of course it is an ongoing process,” Kent-Walsh said. “Each language intervention goes along with them in the long term to help them how best to use the technology in their everyday lives.”
The program also consisted of therapy sessions led by graduate speech-language pathology students to figure which app would be fitting for each child’s speech problem.
Caroline Krohne, a graduate communications sciences and disorders student, participated in iCan Communicate as a requirement of one of her courses as a service learning project.
“[The children] were so energetic and motivated to work with us that it really made it a great experience,” Krohne said.
Her part in the therapy process was to evaluate how the children would be using the app. Since most of the 15 kids that came were of school age, they determined what application would be most useful for them as they communicated with their teachers and peers.
Pamela Resnick, assistant regional coordinator of FAAST demonstration center, clinical educator and lead technology specialist at UCF communications disorders clinic, said that the 15 children that participated in the program ranged vastly in both age and speech capabilities.
“Some of them had some verbal output, others had none,” Resnick said. “Some of them had verbal output but it was not highly intelligible where they needed a speech-generating application in order to communicate.”
The experience was not only beneficial for the children but an unforgettable experience for their families as well.
“It was extremely touching for some families,” Resnick said. “Some families had tears of joys because they had never heard their child say their own name. So it was very moving.”
For more information on iCan Communicate’s future visit http://www.dsfflorida.org/iCan_Communicate.php.


iPad, iPod, iPhone apps for children with Down syndrome

from Touch Autism:

Touch Autism began to build mobile device applications (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and others) for children with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities and other special needs after discovering how incredibly useful this type of technology can be.
Some of the many advantages of these apps are that they suit visual learners, they allow for non-verbal and non-written responding, they provide immediate and consistent feedback, and are very motivating, because they are just so much fun!
Touch Autism is a two person team dedicated to making the best technological apps for autism, Down syndrome and other special needs that we can! The Touch Autism Team is comprised of Jenny Winningham, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Tomas Krones a Software Engineer. The two of us continuously work toward creating technologies that can help people with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities live independent and productive lives.

  1. Staying Safe and Safer Strangers- A Stranger Danger Social Story for Autism, Down Syndrome & Other Special Need - This app is made up of two community safety social stories. One story focuses on safer strangers and buildings, and the other focuses on what to do if you are lost. 
  2. Calm Counter - Social Story and Anger Management Tool for Autism, Down Syndrome and Special Needs - The app opens up to a "I need a break screen" that vocalizes "I need a break" when it is tapped. The screen then transitions to a red screen with an angry face and the number ten. With each tap the screen transitions to a calmer face and color. In this way, the app prompts the user to count backwards from ten followed by a deep breath. The app also includes a simple social story with line drawings about anger. The social story talks about feeling angry and things you can do, like counting to ten, breathing deeply and taking a break, to calm yourself down. The settings screen allows you to choose from male, female or no vocals for counting back from ten and for reading the social story out loud.
  3. Touch Trainer - Autism & Special Education - The Turn Taker uses visual and/or audio cues to facilitate turn taking and/or sharing in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome or other special need. This app has also been used successfully with young children, children diagnosed with ADHD, and with any child that finds it difficult to share! 
  4. Divorce Social Story - A Social Story for Children about Divorce – Autism, Down Syndrome and Special Needs - This app is a simple and short social story about diveroce and what it means for a  child. The app uses simple language and graphics to explain that divorce means parents living in separate houses, and that it's ok. 
  5. Turn Taker - Sharing Tool and Social Story for Autism, Down Syndrome and Special Needs - The Turn Taker uses visual and/or audio cues to facilitate turn taking and/or sharing in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome or other special need. This app has also been used successfully with young children, children diagnosed with ADHD, and with any child that finds it difficult to share!
  6. Preference & Reinforcer Assessment - Autism & Special Education - his Preference (Reinforcer) Assessment app was designed by a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) to make running a preference (reinforcer) assessment amazingly easy to do, so that anyone can effectively and scientifically determine their child’s or client’s preferences. Reinforcement (Preference) Assessments are an incredibly important procedure in any behavior change program. They are not conducted nearly as often as they should be because they can be difficult to run, or because many parents, caregivers or practitioners have not been sufficiently trained to run them. This app includes such features as descriptions of all of the types of preference assessments, a timer to determine the end of a trial, and specific instructions and visuals to help you set up and run the assessment. Once the assessment is finished the app will automatically calculate the percentage of times each item was selected in which it was available, and will present this info in an easy to read bar graph. The data and graph from each client will be saved on the app, so that the user can easily review results from past assessments.
  7. My Day With WH Words - A Social Story and Speech Tool for Autism, Down Syndrome and Other Special Needs - This app includes a social story about talking about one's day, and a simple visual support for "WH" questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How). The story focuses on why it's important to tell people about your day, and what each different WH questions mean.
  8. Potty Training Social Story - Autism, Down Syndrome & Special Needs - This is an interactive story about potty training that is customizable for boys or girls. The app also includes and extensive FAQ page that lists answers written by a board certified behavior analyst to common potty training questions.
  9. Knock Knock Numbers - Autism & Special Education - Knock Knock Numbers was designed by a BCBA as a fun way to teach kids how to tell knock knock jokes, while working on number recognition. The app teaches 20 different jokes and each one prompts the user to identify a number between one and ten.
  10. Conversation Social Stories and Simple PECS Communication Tool - Autism, Down Syndrome & Special Needs - This app is made up of four social stories about different conversational skills and simple communication tools to go with them. The stories focus on greetings, asking someone to play, what to talk about in a conversation and tips for great conversations. 
  11. Autism Apps - Autism Apps is simply a comprehensive list of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. It also includes links to any available information that can be found for each app. The Apps are also separated into over 30 categories, and the descriptions are all searchable, so any type of app is easy to find and download.
  12. Touch Tutorial - Elderly, Autism & Special Education - Touch Tutorial was designed by a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) to teach users with little to no experience with new technology how to use touchscreens. Touchscreens, like those found on ipads, iphones, ipod touches or other devices, are being used more and more frequently in every day society. This application uses easy to understand language and icons to teach foundational skills and then builds on these skills so that the user learns many of the common gestures necessary to operate a touchscreen device. Also see Touch Tutorial Lite - Autism, Special Education & Elderly 

Be gentle.

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