Cool Technology Tools for People with Disabilities

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Jul 07, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team at Shepherd Financial Partners
Cynthia Haddad, CFP® | John Nadworny, CFP® | Alex Nadworny, CFP® 

ipad.jpgModern technology tools benefiting a wide range individuals are becoming more accessible and more affordable. Here are some of the applications available now: 

Touch-to-speak apps - Mainstream and specialized technologies may be used to help children manage a disability. Touch-to-speak apps on both Apple and Microsoft tablets can help enable children to express themselves with minimal frustration. A tablet’s all-in-one build enables individuals who may have trouble manipulating a keyboard and mouse to easily access information.  AssistiveTouch was developed for individuals with motor skill challenges, as well as people whose sight and hearing are impaired. Rather than pinching the screen to zoom in or use the side buttons to adjust volume, AssistiveTouch allows users to perform these functions by simply tapping icons which appear in a dialogue box on the screen.

Voice recognition technology encourages independence in users with learning disabilities by enabling them to be less reliant on assistance. Voice control technologies allow users to dictate messages which are then converted into text on their phones. This software may be particularly useful for individuals affected by dyslexia, as it eliminates the need to manually type messages. A variety of smartphone apps read screen text and commands out loud and may be an aid to the visually-impaired as well.

Applications for People with Autism - Alexandra Samuel’s article in The Wall Street Journal, Personal Technology and the Autistic Child: What We’ve Learned Technology and the Autistic Child: What We’ve Learned, discusses her observations of ways in which technology can help children with autism develop their strengths and address their challenges. Experiencing the world in an unfiltered form, as many children with autism do, would be overwhelming for any individual and she discusses the role technology can play is to provide an escape hatch after a busy day. However, she notes, children with autism must be closely monitored when using technology for the highly structured, predictable and immersive experience of gaming, may reinforce the rigidity of autistic-type brains.

One common trait that autistic children often develop is a passionate interest in a particular subject, and this may be a key to unlocking a child’s development. In Alexandra Samuel’s case, technology played a major role in her son's development. She searched for any underlying themes video games may have masked, including giving her son opportunities to learn about technology itself.  

Applications to help manage your family's health - Apps such as Birdhouse Health have been created to help families to track their fmaily member's medications, diet, activities and behaviors. Birdhouse provides parenting advice, tips, and guidelines as well as connects you to a support network of like-minded community members for support. Birdhouse for Autism helps parents and caregivers identify behavioral patterns in order to determine what is and is not working in their efforts to help their child with Autism. Birdhouse for Special Needs helps parents and caregivers organize and coordinate important health information regarding their child's disability. Birdhouse for Epilepsy helps parents, caregivers, and individuals living with Epilepsy monitor progress over time and evaluate interventions. Birdhouse for Teachers helps teachers track, organize, and share important information about students in a special education environment. Birdhouse for Seniors helps individuals caring for the aging and elderly organize important information about their care and share it with the people they trust. Birdhouse for Families helps parents and caregivers keep important health information about family members in an organized, searchable place. The Birdhouse Health app eliminates the need for a paper record of a child’s behaviors and provides a secure way to digitally track behaviors, medicine, and diet.

Modern technologies have improved the quality of life for many individuals with disabilities and many new, affordable applications are in the pipeline.

Prepared by Jacqueline Lyons, Intern, Shepherd Financial Partners

Sources:

Chutz, Ben, Dani Gillman, and Adam Milgrom. "Birdhouse Health|Caregiving Made Easier." Birdhouse Health. Birdhouse, n.d. Web. 06 July 2016.

"Innovative Ways Technology Can Help People with Disabilities." - TheSnugg.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.

Samuel, Alexandra. "Tech and the Autistic Child: What We've Learned." The Wall Street Journal 27 June 2016: 8. Print.      

"5 Benefits of an IPad for Special Needs Children." Star Medical. N.p., n.d. Web.

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