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.
In reading some of the research studies involving adults on the autistic spectrum, one of the more valuable functions an assistive device can have is to remind the person of upcoming events or the next step to take when tackling a sequence of tasks. Autism can make it harder for individuals to adjust to changes of routine so anything that will provide a pointer to what comes next could be useful. There can be times where people have poor memory and forget that they have important appointments to keep, or you become so engrossed in one particular task that you need some kind of “nudge” as a reminder to move to the next task. It’s no exaggeration to say that there are literally thousands of apps available for smartphones that can assist with time and task management – it’s a very highly utilised category of app for all people.
Clocks and alarms
Most mobile phones, even the most basic kind, have some kind of a clock feature built-in. And where you find a electronic clock you will often find means of settings alarms for alerts at particular times. You can usually choose what sound or ring tone should be used when the alarm goes off, on some devices you can even choose to play a music track on your device. Also useful is a countdown timer – say you have a particular task that is supposed to be carried out within a certain amount of time, then set a countdown alarm and an alarm will go off after that particular amount of time has passed.
Using Clock app on iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad)
On Android the clock app may vary by who manufactured your device, you may have an analogue clock face or a digital clock display and often the choice of which kind you prefer. A clock is usually displayed on your home page on your device (the screen you see when you first start it up). On some devices you can set alarms via tapping on the clock.
Calendars and event reminders
Similar to clocks for time, devices will usually have at least a basic calendar feature to show the date and days of the month. On smartphones calendar apps become particularly powerful when you are able to add your own events to their calendar for reference and optionally receive notifications and reminders. This can be an excellent way of planning for the future by making sure you don’t miss something important.
In the calendar entry for the event itself there may be space to enter names/addresses/photos, anything of relevance to that event or venue. For visual learners you may wish to add photos of people you are due to meet or buildings you have to visit. For events taking place at a different location you could include transportation/journey details in advance so that you don’t have to figure that out on the day when you may be more stressed. For events in the calendar you can add alerts that pop up something visual on your phone to remind you and/or play some sound.
Using Calendar app on iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad)
Details of how to use the Calendar app on iOS devices can be found in your “User Guide” document – downloadable from the Support:Manuals section of the Apple website.