Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The iPad. A great invention for autistics!

This past spring at the Autism Ontario York Chapter Annual General Meeting, we had a speech and language pathologist, Dana Sahian, do a presentation.  She specializes in using technology to support people with learning and communication challenges. She came to talk about the iPad. I thought she would mainly talk about the augmentative communication apps and considered not going. Our whole family is verbal most of the time. I was in for a surprise.  She actually spent a little time on that and a lot of time on using the iPad forschool work.

I'd never seen an iPad up close and certainly would never have thought you could do school work on it.  That's what laptops are for!
Everybody at school knows you are in special education when you drag out your big school laptop and the programs for your school work regularly have problems.
To complete your work, you have to find the scanner in the school, scan the work in, come back to class, do your work, then go and print it out somewhere.  
An iPad on the other hand is cool. Who doesn't want one?  It's small, light, and doesn't usually crash. It's fun. You can use it for games, music, movies, and learning (most important of course!).
For those of us with autism, especially those who are non-verbal or have learning disabilities, the iPad is a great thing. There are programs for communication, social skills, behaviour support, visual supports, school work and more!  
For non-verbal kids, there are apps like Proloquo2go andTalking Tiles. I am only non-verbal at times so I use free text to speech apps or I use texting. I sometimes use texting in Parent Support Group because I can't usually speak out in the meeting. I can text my autism consultant who is leading the group and she will say out loud what I want to say.  
The apps for social skills can teach emotions, body language, how to have a conversation, and social skills for the work place. There are more apps being made regularly.  
There are even apps to help teach the hidden curriculum for kids and adults. For kids: things like not yelling to another student that he didn't pull up his zipper or that he has toilet paper stuck to his shoe, instead saying it to him quietly so he doesn't get embarrassed.  For adults: things like if you regularly accept rides from a friend or coworker, it's nice to help pay for gas.  
Apps for behavioural supports include visual timers, first-then, and even ABA programming.
The thing that really surprised me was that there are apps which can help with school work. Who knew!
A student can do all of her school work on an iPad.  
If they have trouble taking notes from the black board, all they have to do is take a picture and they have the notes. Lectures can be recorded on the iPad. Work sheets can be filled in by using the Scanpro app to scan it into the iPad and then you can open the document in the Notability app. A text box can be brought up for each blank that needs to be filled in.  This app can be used to fill in all paperwork. The completed work can be sent to the Dropbox app and a link can be shared with the teacher who can then get on her computer to print it out or correct it and then send it back to Dropbox.

The Inspiration app can be used to help in essay writing. It comes with different templates for writing essays, science lab reports, history papers, and others. You can make your own template as well. The main idea is in the centre with topics coming off of it and sub topics coming off topics if needed.  

Once the brainstorming is completed, the template can be sent to Notability and you can then fill in sentences under the topic headings.
After learning about these neat apps, I thought it would be great for us to get an iPad for our daughter to do her school work on. She used a laptop previously but it was starting to be discouraged at her first school and then at the second school she was afraid to bring it out.
She is now in a new school and uses her iPad.  
She enjoys using it. 
On Friday, she and a classmate even used it in a skit they did for a health project. She is not afraid to use it in the Community Class but she hasn't done any integration yet. I hope that when she starts going to some integration classes she will be so used to working on it that it will not cause her anxiety to bring it out in front of the big class.
I decided to borrow Micah's iPad to write this blog.  It only made sense since it is a blog about the iPad.
I really struggle to write. Just getting a topic is difficult and then I have to break that down and write it. Usually my autism consultant will help choose a topic and then break it down into smaller chunks so that I can write it. This is one that I chose on my own. 
I used Inspiration to break it down into chunks and now I am using Notability to fill it in.
Usually when I write my blog, I use pen and paper and then type it into the computer, send it to my autism consultant to edit it, and then post it after correcting it.     
I'm not accustomed to utilizing an iPad. This is the first time I have tried to write on it.   
I think in some ways it was simpler to write especially using Inspiration to brainstorm but it is difficult not using pen and paper as I have been for 35 years and this keyboard and screen are a lot smaller than I am used to.
I will need more practice to really see if it helps my writing but it has been fun and now I want an iPad of my own!  Maybe in the future?
Now I wonder if I can post this to my blog from the iPad or if I have to do it on the computer?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Individuals with ASD can have trouble managing when there are too many demands at once. 

We may shut down and not be able to do anything or we may explode.  We may look like we are being defiant but we are not.

This starts even as a young child.  It can seem to be something as simple as saying, “Put on your shoes we are going out to the store and then the park.”  That might not be a problem if the child was standing like a robot waiting for orders but people are not robots.  The child was doing and thinking about something else when this was asked of her. 

Too many words and commands overload our brains causing great anxiety which leads to a meltdown, whether explosive or withdrawn (freezing).  This can usually be avoided with one step instructions.  Make sure you have the child’s attention and tell her, “In__ minutes, you need to put on your shoes”.  In __ minutes tell the child to put on her shoes.  Once the shoes are on, you ask her to get in the car.   Then in the car you can tell her, “We are going to the store”.  After the store, let her know you are going to the park.

The child must be able to do each individual step on her own or you will have to help her.  This is simplified but you can find more information on the internet, from other autistics, or good therapists.

As children get older, they have more and more information coming at them.  At school, their work is increasing and becoming more difficult.

In high school, teens start rotation classes, have several teachers, hundreds of other students crowding the halls, and an increase in what is expected of them.

Multiple assignments in one or more subjects are given at once, plus regular homework, and tests.  It gets very overwhelming especially for someone on the spectrum.  You have to be able to schedule when to complete each assignment, determine its importance, figure out what you must do to complete it, and then do the actual work and hand it in.  This has to be done for multiple subjects. 

Students with ASD have problems with executive dysfunction.  If they do not have a lot of individual help breaking down their work, severe anxiety can result, causing meltdowns and school avoidance.  I had meltdowns regularly when I was in high school.  I was able to hold it in at school but over the years, my anxiety got worse and this in turn caused depression.  I was frequently in tears over my homework and assignments.  I didn’t know where or how to start.  Essays and projects were the worst and I had no help because nobody knew that I had these problems. 

Students who have a diagnosis can be accommodated at school to help with their work and classes.

As an adult there are many more stresses: relationships, health, noise from pets and or children, bills, job or lack of, and everyday living.

I get overwhelmed and have meltdowns often. 
Sometimes I have a day that seems like a disaster, sometimes it is an entire week or more.

All the little and big things add up and result in a great deal of anxiety for me.  There are days where: my husband and daughter have bad anxiety and they are irritable, the dogs are really barking a lot, there are school issues, car troubles, appointments to get to, and phone calls to make, sensory problems, and even though I like it, I struggle to write this blog (I never know what to write about or how to start).  It has taken me a month after receiving the suggestion of this topic to figure out how to write it. 

That can all happen in one day for me on top of the normal daily things.  Most people would get stressed out by all that but usually they can sort through it and deal with each thing as it comes.

All I see is a big mess and get overwhelmed and shut down.  I can’t do anything.  There are so many things going around in my head and my whole body feels like it will explode.  If no one is around, I cry.  I don’t know where to start in the mess.  I get very anxious.  Sometimes, if I can get a hold of her, I contact my autism consultant and tell her what is happening.  Sometimes she is able to suggest somethingthat might help.  But it helps just being able to tell her because even though I can’t get the words out properly, she gets it.  I also take one of my “as needed” medications and then hope for the day to end and that the next day will be better. 

Sometimes the anxiety gets so bad that I feel like dying but I know that feeling will eventually end.

I haven’t found anything that consistently works to get me through those times yet.  I’ve learned to just wait it out.