Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apps. For Autism. Years ago there was a priest or a nun in every family. Not anymore. Nowadays you will probably know of someone or have an Autistic child in your family. You know, the kid that just doesn’t get it. At least if a down syndrome kid showed up, you knew what you were dealing with . These Autistic kids are different. No two person are the same. Many appear to be completely normal whatever that is but when you try to engage in a conversation you realize there are communication problems.
There was a TV show that aired on October 23rd at 7:00 called 60 Minutes. You can probably see it again somewhere on the internet or maybe on You Tube. There was a segment on the gratitude from parents of kids who have autism. The I Pad and many applications seem to be helping parents and their kids in communicating to each other.
The parents say it helps the kids who can’t speak. Getting a tablet computer like the I Pad seems to help the kids with the easy touch and swipe screens. With the help of certain applications some of these kids are communicating. Instead of pulling or screaming, with the voice activated application, touch screen and pictures; kids are communicating.
You can download a special language application and add pictures , videos and symbols that allow them to convey their feelings, what they want and what they watch on TV. It is designed for kids that rarely look at people, they rock and have obsessions. Things they do over and over again.
With this availability of new ways of communicating some are getting real results. The language application that helped for some is called Proloquo2Go from Assistive Wares. There are also other applications specifically designed for kids with autism like Autism Express to help them identify emotions. Another called Look In My eyes to practice eye
Some of these kids have not communicated with people for 30 years and now the parents are ecstatic. There is a school in Toronto, Canada called the Beverly School where half the kids there are autistic and extremely impaired. They hit themselves and shout out randomly. It is hard to know why they are so upset. It is frustrating for all.
Bring out the I Pad and they interact in a way they have never acted with things in front of them before. The first study is ongoing to find out just how effective the I Pad is with the students. The study has already found that it improves the kids willingness to socialize and it has enhanced their attention spans.
Autistic kids are known to want to interact with a machine rather than with human contact. The device is constant, the pacing is constant and is there all the time. Humans that help are unpredictable the machine is not. The kids like order and control. It doesn’t work for everyone but some are engaged with it fully.
Some 10 year olds that were assumed they had the IQ of a toddler with the assistance of a vocabulary application were able to communicate and prove that they were aware of a lot of things around them. Before the use of the application, no one knew the amount of things the kid knew.
There was a part of the app that applies to exploring music. They are exposed to various types of music and it was found that one kid preferred opera to most other types of music by always choosing to hear it. All through the easy application on the I Pad.
As many as 30 percent of Autistic kids have trouble speaking. There is a major research study presently going on at The University of Pittsburgh trying to figure out why these kids do not speak. Neuro scientist Dr. Walter Schneider is studying whether the language problem is caused by a disruption in the brain’s connective circuits. We do not have a biological marker for most cases in Autism.
He invited Temple Grandin, the Professor of Animal Science who is more known as an adult that was once thought of as being extremely Autistic. There was even a major movie about her story starring Claire Danes shown all the time on HBO or is rentable now for viewing. She is now the author of 5 books on Autism. They scanned her brain. She has aspersers which is already a high functioning form of Autism but she had trouble learning to speak.
At the college they are using a new method called high definition fiber tracking that reveals the interior wiring of a brain in detail. It has already revealed a dramatic disorganized group of the wiring in the Autistic brain versus the orderly grouping in the normal brain. This can explain the language impairment in autism.
The hope is that with a brain scan, doctors can make an early detection into knowing about the condition. Little things like making a movement in a controlled way to get a response is important to all parents. Like with any child we all need to communicate better.

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