Stories at the Dentist

Details of a current research project relating to dental healthcare is  being carried out by the University of Dundee AAC Research Group. The “Stories at the Dentist” project isn’t specifically about autism but would seem to be relevant. Dental treatment for people on the autistic spectrum can be problematic due to the high degree of communication needed between the dentist and the patient e.g. seeking consent from patients during consultations. For those with sensory issues touch/sounds/taste/sight lights etc.  involved in treatment can be overwhelming and distressing.

“The main objective is to create an effective and efficient means of generating personalised social stories for individual patients within the dental context. This study aims to develop a computer based communication system to support people with intellectual disabilities to understand dental procedures with the aim of reducing anxiety for both patients and clinicians, and to enable patients to be more involved in the decision making process.”

Visit the Stories at the Dentist project website for full details of this research and to see the prototype of an app used to support the work of this project. They are experimenting with social stories to explain processes involved in treatment and e.g. pictures of dental practice staff to introduce the environment.

Scottish Library Apps

The following Scottish libraries have apps for Apple (iPod/iPhone/iPad), Android and Blackberry devices

How to: Devices and connectivity on a shoestring

Images of pound coins
Photo By: Images Money

One of the intentions of the Autism Card project is to look at cost-effective technologies. Although much of what we’re investigating revolves around devices that can be  substantially cheaper than existing assistive devices, ‘cheap’ could in practice still mean hundreds of pounds either one-off costs for buying a device or for a rolling mobile phone contract, for some this will still be prohibitively expensive, especially if you are an out-of-work adult.

“only 15% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment.”

– The way we are: autism in 2012 [PDF],  National Autistic Society

Are there cheaper ways of getting some of the same benefits of the more expensive devices?


eReader devices are specialised devices helping you to read electronic content. They are often cheaper than tablets but are more restricted in what they can do. As they are generally simpler to use and have fewer options to choose from, these ‘restrictions’ may be helpful if you get easily confused trying to make a choice. The cheaper devices will also usually be greyscale (black and white) rather than colour and some don’t have sound but they are usually much more tailored to reading text easily than an average tablet. Because they tend to use less power you can normally go longer between needing to recharge the device than a tablet.  Examples

eReaders  do usually have touchscreens and WiFi, WiFi enables a device to wirelessly connect to the internet and from there you can download  content directly to the device via online ‘stores’ (there may be charges depending on the kind of content). The range of content available will depend on the store. Some eReaders offer apps  allowing you to browse the web and read web pages. And when you have an eReader you can read eBooks, there are ways of getting free eBooks  including

Second hand

The pace of change in hardware the technology sector is ferocious. Those who can afford to buy the newest devices might be selling or getting rid of their older devices every year or two, especially with phones. You might want to keep an eye on online auction sites like eBay for sales of cheaper used equipment or budget new devices.


Particularly in the Tablet category you’ll find lots of new but unbranded devices or brands you’ve never heard of – normally manufactured in the far east and imported to the UK. Maybe a good analogy is running shoes: you could buy labelled brands with a certain reputation  ‘Nike’, ‘Reebok’ (like Apple/Samsung)…or you could buy ‘trainers’ with no big name brand, usually cheaper and maybe not the same build quality but they can still serve a purpose and be more affordable. In technology where cheaper unbranded devices might be more restrictive is in things like resolution of screen (seeing sharp pictures), and storage capacity (how much content you can store) and generally less robust (cheaper connectors/materials more likely to break/scratch) so take good care of these devices and invest in strong cases to avoid damage.

Free WiFi

WiFi logo
WiFi logo

Lots of buildings/venues offer free WiFi these days so keep your eyes peeled and look out for the WiFi logo.

A simple way to find places that have free wifi is simply to go to Google and search for your town name along with the phrase “free wifi” e.g.
Aberdeen “free wifi”

Watch out! If you are out and about and have a phone that allows you to download apps try and make sure you do wireless downloads using a WiFi connection rather than 3G/4G in your phone. Apps can be several megabytes in size – particularly those containing video, on a 3G connection you may get a bigger phone bill or use up your phone data quota too quickly. So if you don’t have WiFi in your house, seek out a WiFi hotspot to save money.


A local library may offer access to WiFi in their buildings to registered members e.g.

Library staff are also usually very helpful if you need a bit of training getting started using IT, some places will even offer free courses.


Buses: Companies such as Stagecoach and Firstbus have WiFi available on some routes


Commercial venues

Some places you might need to get a particular password to use a venue’s connection so don’t be afraid to ask. You might find WiFi hotspots in commercial venues like cafes, fast food outlets and shops. Commercial places are more likely to ask for some personal information like a mobile phone number, so check the fine print on their terms and conditions or you might end up on their mailing lists.


If you are attending a college or university there may be particular places on the campus where you can get a WiFi connection perhaps using an account at your institution or using a service called ‘eduroam’ – see eduroam: participating organisations.

Via your ISP

If you have a broadband internet connection at home and your modem/router has been installed recently you might already have WiFi available or may be able to upgrade for a small charge  but you might need a bit of setting up to use it the first time and to set a password for your own WiFi network. Having WiFi at home will make it cheaper to use your mobile device and easier to keep your device and data up to date.

Larger companies can offer access to hotspots elsewhere outside your house. Examples

How to: Mobile device security

Preventing unauthorised use by ‘locking’

Lock and key
Image By: Carlos Luz

Most smartphones/tablets have a way of locking the screen so that access to your device is protected by e.g. a password, pin number/code, gesture, face and fingerprint recognition,… new methods are coming along all the time. The lock will usually start when you haven’t used your device for a few minutes – sometimes you can choose what length of time this should be – shorter is more secure. Locking is strongly recommended, especially if you are storing sensitive personal data on your device or traveling. Locking will prevent others from just picking up your unattended phone and using it without your knowledge. Be careful though that you choose a method of locking that you’ll be able to remember how to use or you’ll lock yourself out of your own device! If you’re clumsy, locking also helps stop you unintentionally press buttons or launching apps e.g. when the device is in a pocket or bag, helps prevent you making accidental phone calls or draining your battery.


Hand-held devices though easy to carry can also be easy to lose, small thin devices may slip through a gap without you noticing, you might leave a device behind on public transport  etc. (Tip:  if you’ve lost your device try contacting their ‘lost property’ departments,  you’ll find the details on your travel company website). If you own a device have a think about who/where should be contacted if someone who doesn’t know you comes across your device, if it’s your mobile phone you obviously can’t use your mobile number as a contact. So how could a well-intentioned person contact you? You might want to physically write a contact  phone number on a label stuck to the back of a device – but don’t put too much personal info here as you don’t know who will be reading it. Electronically, some lock screens allow you to type some text to be shown even when someone is prevented from using any of the features of the device.

At the moment iPhone/iPod/iPad don’t have customised lock screen text built in but what some people do is to create a customised wallpaper containing contact details and use that on their lock screen

Apple has some additional advice

Organisation devices

If you are part of an organisation owning  multiple devices  it’s also a sensible idea to add security tags with a unique number or code to your devices and keep an internal register of codes and a note of who has been issued a device and/or where it might be found. You can find security labels where you buy business labels or stationery (might be called ‘asset tags’ or ‘permanent labels’, more expensive versions for security purposes can be tamper-proof). Labels  are also very useful for any auditing/insurance purposes so you know exactly which device is which.

Autism research journals and papers

Research Journals

Some journals with an electronic presence.
Tip: Some journals have “Open Access” articles for papers that don’t require a subscription to read, look for icons of unlocked padlocks.


Some papers involving hand held devices

Commuting Under Pressure

Navigating the sensory landscapes of work based travel

“…David (who has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome) retraces his journey from Southampton to Leeds (via London) in order to illustrate the use of mobile technology to assist with travel…”

David makes a very good job of illustrating the kind of sensory overload issues that can be a risk for those using public transport. Clear signage in public areas can be helpful. He makes good use of a smartphone to

  • Check travel schedules and see whether there are any unscheduled changes to timetables.
  • Play music and use over-the-ear headphones with his device to block out the sound of the underground and construction work at a train station and other loud or unwanted noise.
  • Navigation – uses mapping facilities and the GPS of the phone to find out where he is and which direction he’s facing.

He says he’s found using this kind of technology good for reducing the stress associated with travel and helping avert potential panic attacks.

UK autism electronic research networks – divided by a common language

I was looking electronic discussion forums for where you might find UK autism professionals or academics discussing topics of relevance. It seems the two main ones are

and particularly in Scotland

I’m an IT person what immediately strikes me is that both of these discussion forums are “closed” i.e. you have to go through a registration procedure even to just read the messages.

This is a personal opinion – I’m delighted to find these forums and have already found some valuable contacts and projects but wearing my “what about the punters” hat, I feel that having these closed to reading by ‘anonymous’ users is a pity. As a technical administrator of various forums on Scottish websites over the years I usually find from the usage statistics that the ratio of people who read messages on open systems (no registration for reading) to those who actually post a message is about 100 to 1 i.e. about 100 times more people will read a message than will ever contribute.

If web-based electronic research communities require registration to view they are also immediately cutting themselves off from the possibility of their topics and current research discussions ever being found by people using search engines on the web like Google. Thus the general public is effectively blocked from easily ‘stumbling’ on relevant topical material. There’s so little research on autism  available to the general public, most is currently locked up in subscription-only academic journals, every scrap is valuable.

I can understand the need for some locked forums relating to specific individuals/courses/individual privacy notions but for general research and debate?  I find it difficult to understand. One of the features of autism is considered to be “…impaired social interaction…”. Indeed. See irony?

Tesco’s £119 Hudl tablet hits stores | Technology |

Tesco’s £119 Hudl tablet hits stores | Technology |

Used to be the only tablet you could buy in a supermarket was in the confectionary aisle… Should point out that right now this Android tablet is one of the cheapest and highest specification tablets available from a major mainstream retailer in the UK. Worth a consideration if you’re on a tight budget.

Hudl – Introducing the new 7″ tablet from Tesco –