Organized by UMass Medical and Shriver Center in cooperation with our Developmental Disabilities Network (which also includes ICI, MDDC, and DLC). These events are scheduled to take place across the Commonwealth after the anticipated approval of the COVID vaccine for 5-11-year-olds this month.
The goal of these events is to support people with sensory and/or other accommodation needs in Massachusetts to have the most positive and comfortable vaccination experience possible.
We will accomplish this by bringing in clinicians with sensory training to partner with vaccinating clinicians, physical tools to assist with numbing and distraction, strategies for positioning and distraction, and the assistance of volunteers to help with logistics and engagement. Most events will offer vaccines to both children and adults.
We also want to note that planners are hoping for clinicians and volunteers to sign up for the upcoming “VaxAbilities” disability-friendly vaccine events! Currently, they are looking for:
Sensory-trained clinicians who will partner with vaccine-administrating clinicians to understand and use strategies to support the sensory needs and accommodations children or adults may have through the vaccination process (paid or volunteer)
Pediatricians on-site to answer parent and child questions about the COVID19 vaccine (paid or volunteer)
Volunteers that can help direct visitors, help engage children as they wait for vaccines, hand out distractor items/toys, assist with vaccine station cleaning and collect survey responses, etc.
The EasyCOVID-19 project is now recruiting people to help us simplify COVID19 terms. Please help us by visiting our EasyCOVID-19 crowdsourcing app. This is the start of our project to simplify the COVID-19 information published by every country’s government websites.
We will start with the Massachusetts. We will then expand to the other U.S. states. We will then move to the 18 English Speaking countries, then the 21 Spanish speaking countries, then the world! This will help many huge populations, such as people with cognitive disabilities, non-native language speakers, the Deaf, and seniors. When they understand how to be safe and healthy, the whole world will be safe and healthy.
My 25 years old son is non-verbal. He uses his phone as his speech output device. He has worked hard to learn the software on his phone. This software speaks the words that he types into his device. He has used a variety of other speech output devices in the past. There are many more options for speech output devices available now. And, there are places like MassMatch (1 ) which can help each user to find the best choice.
When he was younger, family members and teachers would always be with him and speak for him. These days he still always with someone when he is out in the community. But, now, he is interested in speaking for himself. He also has the vocabulary and skills to speak for himself.
So, how does it go? Well, it depends… Let me describe a common situation that shows how much effort it takes for my son to communicate in public places. Ordering fast food or in a restaurant is something that we all do. For my son, it is a chore. He must get the waiter’s attention. Then, he will order his food. Most of the time, he needs to repeat his order. e needs to repeat it more than one time. If the waiter stops and listens, it is easier. but, most of the time, he needs to repeat his order.
Speaking in public is hard for many people. It is more difficult for someone who uses a speech output device. He shows us that many strangers do not choose to listen. Our public places, malls, restaurants, outdoor spaces are noisy. here is music, talking, traffic, and other sounds. My son cranks up the volume on his phone. On a good day, a stranger will listen to his computer voice. The pride my son takes in talking with someone is worth the effort. This photo shows my son speaking to us. You may be in a place where someone is trying to speak with a device. Please take the time to listen and respond. It only takes a little bit more time and the rewards are great.
My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in assistive technology. I am from Ireland. I am based in Boston for a fellowship.
I have dyslexia. I battle with it daily. It is a challenge when working in research. There is a level of expectation. Mainly that everyone should have a certain ability. I use technology to help me overcome these challenges.
I’m going to discuss technology to help with reading and writing. I will give you some Apps that can help with dyslexia.
There are many famous people that have dyslexia. Examples are Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, and Steven Spielberg. I look at my dyslexia as a super power. It enables me to think differently. It gives me the ability to consider possibilities. It also gets in the way. It makes life hard at times. Like all superpowers I guess!
We are in a time when many people have access to a smartphone or a tablet. I really do believe it’s a great time to have dyslexia. There is so much technology that can help. It’s easy to get.
My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in the disability and assistive technology field. I am from Ireland. I am based in Boston for a fellowship.
I am developing a selection tool for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps. It will help parents, teachers, and specialists choose the correct App for users.
So, what is this AAC that I’m talking about? Well, it’s any form of communication that enables people to express themselves. We typically think voice is the only method of communication. However, we use many forms of contact each day. Can you think of ones you are using right now? Did you use any facial expressions or hand gestures? Maybe you drew a picture to explain something?
Selecting the correct AAC App is all about what works for the person who will use it. That’s the point at which you must start when looking to choose AAC Apps. This is true whether you are a parent or a professional.
Steps in the process of selecting AAC Apps for Parents
(If you have access to a professional, start there)
What is the goal for the user? For example, is it choice making, requesting, or supporting literacy?
Have access to a list of AAC Apps that you can review.
Work on some feature matching to find out what the user needs.
Reduce the list of AAC Apps to those with the required features.
Try some of the shortlisted Apps, and create a shortlist.
Gain insight from professionals, so ask for input from a teacher or care worker.
Try no more than 3 AAC Apps to see which one works best. Keep some notes on the experience.
Select one App from the shortlist and work with it for a few weeks.
Training the user on how to get the most out of it is important.
These are the starting steps when going about selecting AAC Apps. Everyone is different. Therefore, their needs and wants are different too. This means an App that works for one person may not work for another person.
Staying active in the winter is hard. You want to stay warm and cozy inside. But it’s important to stay active year round. Just because it’s cold and snowy outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. There are many fun things to do outside. There are outdoor activities for people of all abilities to enjoy. There is skiing, sit-skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, kick-sledding, and sled hockey.
In western Massachusetts, CHD lists activities like bowling, skiing, sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball.
There are some children who have difficulty talking. Using a tablet can help. Finding the right tablet for each child is not easy. A specialist, called a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), is like a doctor. A SLP meets with the child and watches the child playing. The SLP also speaks to the child. The SLP enables the child to play with different tablets. The purpose is to see which tablet the child likes to use the most. The SLP then asks the child to do a few tasks. The difficulty of the task levels go up to match the level of the child’s understanding. The
SLP has questions for parents as well. The SLP wants to understand how parents and their children talk to each other at home.
Once the SLP finishes meeting with the child, the SLP will write a report. Parents will receive a copy. If parents want to get a tablet for their child, parents and the SLP will work with each other for at least a month. They watch the child using the tablet at school, and then at home. The purpose is to see if the new tablet is really helpful for the child. Parents will take some data to share with the SLP.
Once a child has the right matching tablet, it is important for the parents to know how to use it. Training for parents is important. Parents need to know how to help their children. Many are afraid of allowing their children to use tablets. They worry their children will become dependent on a tablet and not vocalize any more.
For more information, contact Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
I lead an organization called Our Space Our Place, Inc., an after school program for youth who are blind. We visit many museums. Our students learn about different cultures. They write stories and poems. They talk about the stories in art. They talk about their favorite paintings and sculptures with their families and friends. Taking a tour or making art opens new worlds.
For more information about museum programs for people with disabilities contact: