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.

Review of Using iPads in AAC – Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland

“Established in 1991, Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland (ACiP:S) is a national network that links together specialist AAC services and professionals; children and adults who use AAC (and their families); statutory services and voluntary agencies; and that provides resources, information and support.”

In 2012 ACiP:S had a study day, “Using iPads in AAC” and the papers from that day can be downloaded. What’s useful is that they have many case examples of using particular apps with different people and seeing pros and cons for each individual.

A common finding was that tablet devices (compared to smaller iPod devices) were preferred for children just starting to learn language skills and those with poor dexterity as iPads have larger screens making them easier to use and read but at added expense and they are heavier to hold if no surface is available to rest the tablet on. Accessories used for making devices easier to hold for children and to provide stands for working at a desk included the Big Grips cases.

App reviews

Sally Millar of CALL Scotland has a good review of a selection of apps in her paper

Simple Photo and Video Apps to Support Communication [PDF]

List of apps used in paper case studies

Here’s a list of some of the apps that this group has documented in case studies.

NFC Ring – technical uses for your fingers

Thinking more about help for people who may have problems with dexterity found the idea of the NFC Ring quite exciting. Enabling devices as not just wearable technology but jewellery? Unlock doors by wearing jewellery [BBC]
Visit the NFC Ring KickStarter campaign for a video they used that explains the concept and potential uses. This particular project is so new that their NFC Ring blog posts are all about fundraising to get enough money to put it into production though it would appear to be available for sale soon.

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few inches.

Now this ring wouldn’t do anything on it’s own you need to have another device that is NFC enabled, many new smartphones/tables already incorporate this technology. But you could look upon such a ring as an extra button that would do something on the other device as long as the ring is held close to the e.g. phone or tablet device. If you use a fob at work to electronically open doors it’s a very similar principle. Could imagine this also being useful to people who find it difficult to bend their fingers e.g. arthritis in joints.

There are some practical issues like getting the size of fit of the ring right!

Keep an eye on their Twitter account @nfcring for latest developments

Autistic Children Communicate with Horses and iPads

From Icatha College USA, a project involving Tina Caswell – Clinical Instructor, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

With Horses and iPads, Autistic Children Learn to Communicate [Press release]

Interesting to note that they found that the light weight of an iPad device was an important factor

“…traditional assisted speech-generating devices can be cumbersome and heavy and children tend to abandon them due to lack of interest with their limited communication options. On the contrary, iPads loaded with speech-generating applications only weigh around 1 pound, cost significantly less than traditional assisted speaking devices and are more user friendly. …”

In the project they also utilise Dynavox Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices.


Good communication is essential for children with autism and their families

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (England and Wales) provides guidance and advice to improve health and social care. On 28 August 2013 they published clinical guidelines offering evidence-based advice on the care and management of children and young people with autism.