Assistive Technology for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

How many types are there?Boy leaning on a stack of books

What are challenges people with ADHD may have?

What can families and teachers do to help a child with ADHD?
Overview

In ADHD, children have a hard time making and keeping friends. They also may not do well in school. Some children with ADHD have low self-esteem. ADHD affects millions of kids around the world. Adults have it too. Treatment can help people with ADHD feel better. But, it does not cure ADHD. Treatment is either medicine, behavioral interventions, or both. It happens more in boys than in girls.

There are three main types of ADHD (according to the Mayo Clinic).

  1. Hyperactive (Over-active). This happens more in boys.
  • Talking too much.
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Difficulty staying seated in the classroom.
  1. This happens more in girls.
  • Short attention span.
  • Difficulty staying on task.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • Difficulty staying focused.
  • Appearing not to listen, even when spoken to directly.
  • Difficulty with organizing tasks.
  • Easily distracted.
  1. (both overactive and inattentive). This is the most common type in the United States.

Other challenges in children with ADHD

  1. Learning disabilities.
  2. Understanding difficulty.
  3. More car accidents and injuries.
  4. More poisoning and choking.

 What can teachers do to help CHILDREN with ADHD?

 Teachers can help children with ADHD to stay focused by putting them in a quiet space. By doing this, there are fewer noises and other distractions.  Also, white noise helps kids concentrate and pay better attention while learning.

Other helpful ways to help kids focus is to use a timer. There are different kinds, such as kitchen timers and dual timers. They help kids with ADHD manage time wisely. They help improve concentration. Some people prefer kitchen timers or timer apps. Many therapists think a timer app works for only a short time before a kid with ADHD tunes it out. (See Timer Visual Productivity / Android version.)

Routines and rules in the classroom can make a big difference.

Audiobooks, talking books and text to speech (TTS) will enable kids with ADHD to listen carefully to text. TTS helps kids with ADHD understand what they are reading. It also helps them recognize words.teacher helping student

Children and adults with ADHD can use a smart-pen, such as LIVESCRIBE, to take notes in class and record the classroom. After school, people with ADHD can read notes they took and listen to a recording at the same time. (See the YouTube video, “5 Students Share smartpen Lecture Techniques”.)

Other useful resources for people with ADHD:

Explore Simple Math, Basic Math, and more!

Three Components of Successful Programs for Children With ADHD.

Tremor and smart phones

In this blog, I would like to discuss briefly three main issues.typing on a smartphone

  1. Define tremor, types of tremor, and diseases that may cause it.
  2. What is the importance of smartphones in the lives of people with tremor?
  3. How software helps people overcome shaky hands.

The smart phone has become an important tool for people. They help us talk to our families and have fun. The following are some ways smart phones can improve the health and lives of people with disabilities.

Tremor is an uncontrolled movement of the body. Some people call it “shaky hands”. Here are two types.

  1. Resting Tremor (RT) is part of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). In 2004, there were about 5 million people with PD in the world. There will be 40 million in 2020. There tends to be less Resting Tremor when the body is moving. Resting Tremor is worse when the body is at rest.
  2. Essential tremor (ET) is another uncontrolled movement of the hands. ET is the most common tremor. The World Health Organization says 4% of people are affected by ET. Essential Tremor is worse when the body is moving, and better when the body is at rest.

Other causes of tremor:

  • brain tumors;
  • side effects of some medicines;
  • caffeine; and
  • stress

Smart phones have become a tool to transmit and store data from people with tremor. They are also used to learn about tremor and to see how good a treatment is.

Below are some free apps with brief explanations:

  1. Lift Pulse App is available for Android and IOS. It can identify your tremor and measure its degree. You can set your baseline readings (on a normal day) and compare them with results from other days. You can find this app at:
    1. Lift Pulse App download link / Android version
    2. Lift Pulse App download link / IOS Version.
  2. Parkinson’s Central App is available for Android and IOS. It is a great free app for people with Parkinson’s Disease. It answers general questions to improve the lives of people with shaky hands. It gives information on health insurance and local resources near you. You can find this app at:
    1. Parkinson’s Central App download link / Android Version
    2. Parkinson’s Central App download link / IOS Version.
  3. Essential Tremor App is available for Android and IOS. It is a great free app for people with Essential Tremor. It gives you general information about symptoms and treatments. It lets you know about ET events near you. You can find this app at:
    1. Essential Tremor App download link / Android Version
    2. Essential Tremor App download link / IOS version.

Touch screens on smart phones could be a challenge for people with tremor.

Below are some helpful solutions.

Change the sensitivity of the touchscreen. Find Accessibility Options in Settings. Now you can adjust such options as:

  • Assistive Touch
  • Touch Accommodations
  • Switch Control
  • Keyboard Size
  • Shake to Undo

Review the options and play around with them to find what is best for your needs.

There are other free apps that would be useful as well. Also, many users with tremor prefer to use voice to text to overcome the challenges of tremor.

I encourage you to enjoy your smart phone, and not to let tremor hold you back.

 

Mindfulness and Children with ADHD – Tools for Parents

children doing yoga

I am a pediatrician.  I often work with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Medication often can help. But there are other ways to help too.  One is mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

The idea of mindfulness is to focus on what is going on in the moment, on purpose, with no judgement (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).

Research shows that these activities can help children with ADHD. This includes the following.

  • Focusing on important thoughts while ignoring others.
  • Help with the behaviors that get children into trouble.
  • Help with control over their emotions

How Can Parents Teach This To Their Children

There are lots of ways to learn to be more mindful.  One activity may work well for your child and others may not.  You might have to try more than one thing with your child.

Some schools teach mindfulness activities. But not every school does.  There are classes, such as children’s yoga, that can teach these skills.  However, classes can be costly and hard to find.  Below are some tools for parents.  Many can be done at home.

 Yoga

Yoga is a good way to help an active child focus.  For young children, I like books that show simple poses.

Older children and teens should start with a live class.  This is to make sure:

  • their form is correct;
  • they learn how to change a hard pose to make it work for their body; and
  • they know which poses should not be tried alone at home.

This helps lower the chance of injury.  You should always talk to your child’s doctor before starting a new exercise program.

There are low-cost options for yoga. These include non-profit studios and community classes.  These options will be different based on where you live.

Once children know how to do yoga safely, they can use online videos.  There are free classes on YouTube.  Do Yoga with Me is a free website.

Mindfulness Apps

Breathing exercises can also aid a child.  These can help calm and focus the mind.  Many only take a few minutes.

Common Sense Media has a list of apps for children.  You can sort them by age.

Other Ideas

These are some ideas that can be done without technology.

More info on the research behind mindfulness and ADHD is discussed in the article Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits. 

Works Cited

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Speaking with An Augmentative Device

Person using agumentative deviceMy 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.

(1) MassMatch

Employment for Adults with Autism

Jobs.  We each expect to find a job when we are adults. Some people know exactly what they

want to do for a job. Many people try different jobs to find one that fits. For my son with

Autism Spectrum Disorder, (or Autism), a job is more like a hope or idea. He is now an adult.

He has skills that would be useful in different work places. The challenge is to find a work

place that will even let him try to work.

Is he the only person with Autism who is not able to find a job?  I wanted to find out. So, here

is what I learned about employment or jobs, for people with Autism. There are not a lot of

data on this topic. Data are collected for people with disabilities. But data are not often sorted by diagnosis.

This chart shows what I did learn about jobs for young adults with Autism. The chart showsChart of employment of young adults with autism

the employment rates for young adults who

have ever worked after high school. It specifies

rates by category. The rates are learning

disability, 95%, Speech/language impairment,

91%,  Emotional disturbance, 91%, Intellectual

Disability, 74% and Autism, 58%. It confirms

that my son is not alone in being unemployed.

There are companies looking to hire. Dell EMC in Central Massachusetts is

one of them. According to an article in the Worcester Business Journal on May

15, 2017, Dell EMC will have a hiring program. This hiring program will work to bring more

people with Autism into the company. They want to hire people with Autism for their skills.

It is good to read about a company that wants to hire people with Autism. This company needs

very specific skills. We will keep working on developing my son’s skills that might be useful in

future jobs. We will talk with our friends and families about hiring people with Autism. We

hope that there is a work place that will welcome our son in the future.

There is an article that summarizes the existing research about hiring an adult with Autism. (1.)

This article surveyed all the published articles that considered the costs and benefits to society,

to the person with Autism and to the employer. The first finding is that there is not enough

research being done on the costs and benefits to employers. It did find some results showing

that it costs society less to have people with Autism employed rather than not employed.

There are indications that people with Autism are happier and busier if they have jobs. The

hope is that more research will be done in the future. This research may show that it is not too

costly to employ people with Autism. Then, maybe more companies would be willing to

interview, train and hire people with Autism. It would make the hope or dream of a job,

become a real job for my son and his peers.

 

  1. The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

Andrew Jacob, Melissa Scott, Marita Falkmer, Torbjörn Falkmer

PLoS One. 2015; 10(10): e0139896. Published online 2015 Oct 7. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139896

PMCID: PMC4596848 Article PubReader PDF–1.3MCitation

 

Abilities at work

My name is Scott Janz. I am a Job Coach. I help adults find jobs.

Man standing at work

Disabilities at Work

People with disabilities can work. Disability does not mean not able. I help many adults get hired. People with disabilities take pride in making a change. Jobs are important for all. I believe biases can be broken. Breaking barriers is vital. I help people reach fairness. Everyone deserves the same chance to get a job.           

Strengths at work

  • Hard work ethic
  • Low turnover
  • Increased diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Loyal
  • Productive
  • Consistent
  • Structured

 Bias at work

Bias exists at work for many adults.  Bias can take many forms. Bullying and stigma are examples. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against bias at work. I work with adults at their jobs. I support their skills. We need to make work fun.

“Time to Potty”: Tips for Toilet Training

As a pediatrician, I work with all children including those with disabilities. This blog shares tips for toilet training. Toilet training can be difficult for all families. It can be especially challenging for children with disabilities. They often need more time, directions, practice, and patience to learn these skills. Each family will need to change these tips to work in their home.

Strategies for Toilet Training:picture of toilet arrow pointing to car

Create a Schedule

  1. Schedule toilet times, with a goal of 4-6 sits a day.
  2. Use a visual schedule or pictures to help your child understand toileting.
    1. Pictures of your child doing each step: going into the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, reaching for the toilet paper, flushing, and washing hands.
  3. Use first…then statements. First toilet then something your child enjoys doing. “First toilet then play with cars”.
    1. Create a picture board with simple pictures (see example)
  4. Instead of asking if your child needs to go to the bathroom say, “Time for the toilet.”

Sitting on the Toilet

  1. At first, the sits on the toilet are short (5 seconds per trip) with one long trip to stopwatchpractice having a bowel movement. Over time increase the sitting time (e.g., up to 5minutes).
      1. Setting a visual timer lets your child know when the sitting ends.
  2. Sits at first can be in clothes. Then underwear. Then without underwear.
    1. If your child uses the toilet then your child can get up right away.
    2. Boys are taught to sit on the toilet to urinate until regularly having bowel movements on the toilet.
  3. Keep track of bowel habits to create your schedule. Watch for signs that your child needs the bathroom (crossing legs and dancing or going to a corner)
      1. 20-30 minutes after dinner or a snack, your child should go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet.
  4. Drinking more fluids and eating more fiber will help your child toilet more.

Make It Fun

award ribbon

  1. Move to underwear. It helps your child realize when he/she is wet or soiled. If able, have your child pick out the underwear.
  2. Bring a favorite book or sing a favorite song that is only read/sung in the bathroom.
  3. If your child does to the bathroom, give IMMEDIATE praise. At the end of the timer, praise your child for sitting on the toilet.
  4. Create rewards for toilet training, one for sitting and two for going. Can use sticker charts or small prizes only used for toileting. Give the reward IMMEDIATELY after the bathroom trip. Reward even small successes.
  5. After sitting on the toilet, your child can do a preferred activity. Using first then statements (above).
  6. Read fun books about toilet training with your child at bedtime.

Stick to It

      1. Accidents happen. Let your child know it is no big deal. Change your child in the bathroom to learn the bathroom is for toileting.
      2. Work towards the same goal for 3 weeks.

Create a Team

      1. Make toileting a team goal with school teachers, therapists, and your doctor.
      2. Working on toileting at home and school will increase learning.
      3. Watch for constipation and talk to your pediatrician. Constipation can slow toilet training progress

Additional Information and References:

Dyslexia and technology, moving the gap.

My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in assistive technology. I am from Ireland. I girl using a tabletam 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.

5 technologies that can make the difference

  1. Voice Dream Reader on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. This is a Text to Speech reader. It is one of the best available.
  2. Claro ScanPen Reader on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. With this app, you take a picture of a page and it reads to you.
  3. Notability on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Useful for taking notes in class. It records the class. It matches any notes you take in class or images from the board.
  4. SnapType Pro on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Useful for filling in a form digitally.
  5. Prizmo – Scanning, OCR, and Speech on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Use this to scan larger documents that you have to read. You can save them to review or read later.

Bonus App: Flat Tomato (Time Management) on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. This is an app that helps you manage your time. It uses the Pomodoro technique.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), what is it and where do I start?


My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in the disability and assistive technology boy using a tabletfield. 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)

  1. What is the goal for the user? For example, is it choice making, requesting, or supporting literacy?
  2. Have access to a list of AAC Apps that you can review.
  3. Work on some feature matching to find out what the user needs.
  4. Reduce the list of AAC Apps to those with the required features.
  5. Try some of the shortlisted Apps, and create a shortlist.
  6. Gain insight from professionals, so ask for input from a teacher or care worker.
  7. Try no more than 3 AAC Apps to see which one works best. Keep some notes on the experience.
  8. Select one App from the shortlist and work with it for a few weeks.
  9. 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.

Some online resources for selecting AAC Apps

Jane Farrell AAC App List – this is a good list of AAC Apps

PrAACtical AAC Blog – this has some great AAC resources

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Toddler – How Might They Look Different?

About Me

young child
SKEPTICAL CHILD BY ARIESA66 LICENCED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS CCO

I am a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in training.  I am often asked to see children for concern about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). During my visit, I watch how children behave.  I then decide if ASD is the diagnosis that best fits their behavior.  I see children of all ages. This is about children less than age 3.

 Why Toddlers are Different

Children with ASD tend to respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed early. (National Research Counsel, 2001). Many children can be diagnosed as young as 18 months of age. But most children are diagnosed between 3-4 years of age (Filipek, 1999).

One reason is because the early symptoms are hard to see.  Some of the best-known symptoms may not show up until a child is older. These include flapping their hands and repeating parts of TV shows.

Toddlers with ASD often don’t learn the skills they need to interact with others. Children who are behind in just their ability to use language still try to interact. They will often use eye contact and gestures to work around their struggles. Children with ASD have trouble with this.

Here are some free websites and videos to help anyone who cares for young children. This information shows what we call the “red flag signs” for ASD.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The website Autism Navigator talks about the early signs of autism. There is a free course with videos about toddlers with ASD. You have to register to use the site. They also have a list of red flag signs for toddlers. These include:

  • not looking at someone when their name is called;
  • not showing others objects they like;
  • not sharing their interests with the ones they love;
  • not making eye contact; and/or
  • not using gestures to let people know what they want.

There are other resources on this website. However, not all of them are free.

How a Toddler with ASD Might Look

Here are some videos from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing how a toddler with autism spectrum might look. There are also toddlers that do not have the warning signs of autism. This enables you to see how they differ. All the videos are on the CDC video library.  Some of the videos are linked below.

Looking at someone when their name is called

Here is a video of a 12-month-old who responds to his name by looking at his mother and smiling. He also points at her. This is what we expect a toddler to do when their name is called.

12-month-old looking when called

Here is a video of an 18-month-old not looking at his mother when his name is called. A toddler who can hear should look when his name is called.

18-month-old child not looking when called

Play

This video shows a 13-month-old stacking cups. He involves his father and gives him the cups. Many toddlers seek out their loved ones when playing.

13-month-old toddler playing with father

Here is a 17-month-old toddler who is not showing pretend play with a phone. He also does not copy the adult when she tries to show him how to use it. These are both warning signs of ASD.

17-month-old toddler not showing pretend play

Twins and a train

The last video shows a set of twins, who are 19 months old.

  • The first one does not have signs of ASD. He likes to push the train back and forth with his mother.
  • The second twin does have signs of ASD. He needs to be asked to push the train. He also does not seem to enjoy playing with his mother.

19-month-old twins pushing train

The Importance of Those Who Care for Children

Parents and early-childhood workers interact with young children the most. They often are the first to know something is wrong. They can be important to get a child with ASD the help they need. These links and videos can help anyone who is interested better know the warning signs for ASD.

Works Cited

Filipek, P. e. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 439-484.

National Research Counsel. (2001). Educating children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.