The travelling Mozzaz team - Sammy and Linda - headed south again to Florida this past week for the CoCENTRIX Compass User’s Conference in Sarasota.
It wasn’t all hard work though! Things got a little fishy 25 miles out on the Gulf of Mexico. With the ocean breeze in their hair and fishing rods in their hands, our travelling duo had a deep sea adventure with our CoCENTRIX friends and a few others.
Linda, by no means a landlubber, caught herself a beauty of king marlin, while Sammy reeled in two! As easy as hook, line, and sinker!
Talking about reeling them in, our presence at the Compass Conference was a great success. We were able to connect with some wonderful people, including the VP of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare - Michael Lardiere.
It was no surprise that Mr. Lardiere showed interest in Mozzaz and our mission to promote collaborative consumer driven healthcare through mobile apps and solutions. Lardiere’s has been working in the healthcare field for over 30 years and has extensive experience in implementing electronic health records and other health IT solutions. We gave him a demo and he took the bait!
We’ll be seeing more of Lardiere at the 43rd Annual National Council Conference in Las Vegas April 8-10 where we will be showcasing a brand new app, CareTILES, with our CoCENTRIX partner. In a double booth, attendees can learn about CoCENTRIX’s flagship product, CoCENTRIX Coordinated Care Platform (CoCENTRIXccp) and CareTILES, an app geared to helping those with a wide variety of behavioral or mental health disorders.
Overall, it was a great trip... looks like that Compass is taking us all over the map!
April 2 has been designated globally as World Autism Awareness Day, while the whole month of April is Autism Awareness Month. While raising awareness, let’s also consider a few facts to think critically about. Did you know that the most recently released stat is that 1 in 50 kids in America are diagnosed with ASD? The Center for Disease Control announced this stat last month in March. This is a drastic increase from the previous stat of 1 in 88. The CDC, however, stated that different methods were used to collect these recent survey results than that of the older stat that was released in 2008.
So what does this mean? Is the rate of autism actually increasing at a rapid rate, or does it mean that we have a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which in turn increases the number of youth diagnosed with ASD?
What we do know for sure is that there definitely needs to be more funding towards helping both children and adults with ASD. The NY Daily News brought up an excellent point in one of their articles – if Autism is shown to be a growing health concern and is becoming more common, governments will be more willing to invest money in healthcare and social programs related to Autism. This could mean less wait times for access to services and more affordable programming and care.
With these promising potentials looming ahead, continued studies on rates and impacts of Autism are more than needed to help urge governments to more supports in place.
|Seems like April is many things: Autism Awareness, Parkinson’s Awareness, even Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s also Stress Awareness Month. We can all relate to stress and its effects on us. Stress can effect in our bodies in a multitude of ways – from headaches, to blood pressure, to digestion issues – it’s not a fun ride for anyone. We know it can physically take a toll, but what about mentally? Depression, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, lack of focus – these are but a few.|
There are many simple ways to destress during the day (throwing your chair out of the window may seem like a stress relieving action, but believe us when we say it only brings about more…!)
|Infographic Source: http://dailyinfographic.com/stress-on-the-body-infographic|
- Turn off your computer screen, close your eyes, and take 5 deep breaths. Try to remove the distractions around you and focus on your breathing.
- Go to http://cuteoverload.com/ and browse for about 5 minutes. Cute animals are always a great distraction and make you smile.
- Create a to-do list (although this in itself can be stressful!) and be sure to include even the simple tasks like checking your email, printing out a document, and setting a reminder call. As you complete each task during the day, strike them off. Seeing your progress will help to make you feel positive and less stressed.
- Download The Mindfulness App from iTunes. For just $2 it’s built to help you with mediation and be mindful of your inner-self and the world around you.
- Have a dance party! Put on your favorite song and dance around. Do it alone or with someone else, a dance around the room will up your energy and make you smile.
If you are struggling with stress levels, consulting your family doctor is a good idea.
Advances in Assistive Communication Technology Continue to Raise the Voice of Non-Verbal Individuals
Talk about a new way to communicate - if we take a look back in history at autism and technology, it is astounding to see the major impacts and improvements in just the past decade.
Lenovo’s infographic, The Power of Touch, helps us to understand the progress during the last century. It was just over 100 years ago that the term Autism was coined, and it took about 40 years for doctor’s and therapists to start using ‘assistive technology’ with their clients. In the 1950s that ‘assistive technology’ was not anything like we think today in terms of tablets and computers. Flash cards, toys and chalkboards were used to help children with Autism communicate with those around them.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that speech generating devices emerged that voice was given to the words they structured together. Leap forward another 20 years and the first commercial dynamic display speech generator was available, meaning now that autistic kids could explore more complex ideas and express themselves creatively.
As computers and devices become more mainstream and affordable, more families and individuals were able to access them. In just the past few years, the options for assistive communication technology have exploded with the introduction of AAC apps for tablets and other mobile devices. Particularly useful was the adoption of touch screens to computers and devices allowing for users to touch directly on what they want, rather than having to rely on - and understand - the connection between the computer screen, the mouse, and the cursor. A study in 2011 revealed that people with Autism have enhanced visual detection centres, which helps to explain why visual programs are so helpful and effective.
As technology continues to change and grow, the possibilities are endless on the developments of assistive communication. Apps like TalkingTiles that work with touchscreen and internet technology are the next generation of AAC - combining an effective tool for user’s needs and the ability to remotely connect with therapists is just another example of progress that is creating better solutions for those in need.
The current update to TalkingTiles is definitely a milestone release that we’re excited about! This latest release includes a feature that we’ve been asked about many times – “grid customization.” Grid customization enables you to modify the number and size of tiles on a page. You can have one single large tile displayed upto a maximum of 100 tiles!! This version -3.0 is set to release in Fall 2014.
Here are some examples of how TalkingTiles can be used for education and learning in different ways beyond just AAC:
These are just some examples of what custom grids will allow users to do. Other advanced features available soon will include page previews, unlimited number of pages on a device, data collection and much more!
|There have been many studies over the years indicating that many behaviors exhibited by individuals with special needs, specifically autism, may be related to hyper or hypo-reactions to sensory input. These individuals have difficulty registering, modulating and integrating sensory stimuli and could result in self-stimulatory behaviors and irregularities in arousal levels.|
|Having an occupational therapist (OT) on the care team for such individuals is very common and a very good idea. An OT’s program involves promoting skill development and independence in all daily activities. For an adult, this may mean looking at the areas of self-care, home-making, leisure and work. For children, this may include playing in the park, licking a popsicle, washing hands, going to the bathroom, cutting with scissors, printing at school, running, jumping, sitting at circle time and taking swimming lessons.|
|OT’s are trained in “task analysis” for the teaching of new skills. This technique is very important when we teach dressing, feeding, and toileting skills. With sensory integration difficulties, OT’s teach these new skills by accommodating for sensory problems or impaired motor planning.|
Occupational Therapists can now use TalkingTiles to program OT exercises for their clients so they can practice them at home.
What on earth is a “sensory diet”? Is this another new fad diet? Not at all! In fact this is not a strictly a food diet but a term used to describe sensory activities that are used to treat kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. Your Occupational Therapist will create a “menu” of activities to do with your child. He/she will have you perform these activities in a particular order to create a sensory “meal” or “snack”. Just like nutritional diets, the sensory diet is designed for your child’s sensory needs. Your Occupational Therapist will create a plan of activities for you to do throughout the day.
Common Sensory Diet Activities:
Proprioception activities- Proprioception has to do with body awareness (being aware of where your body is positioned in relation to other parts of your body). Receptors in the muscles and joints help to coordinate movements even without vision. Proprioception activities would include things like
- Pushing and pulling activities
- Squeezing toys or popping bubble wrap
- Wrapping your child in a “burrito” by rolling him up in a blanket
Vestibular activities- Vestibular input has to do with your sense of movement and balance that is processed in the inner ear. Vestibular activities include:
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Swinging on a swing at the park
- Running, jumping or skipping
Tactile activities- Tactile activities include any activities that involve the sense of touch, texture or temperature. Some tactile activities are:
- Messy play such as playing with shaving cream, finger paint, or play dough
- Reading and touching textured books
- Tracing shapes on to your child’s back and letting him guess what shape
Auditory activities- Auditory activities include hearing and listening. Some auditory activities might include:
- Playing with instruments, such as imitating a rhythm with a drum or tambourine
- Playing listening games to see if your child can guess the sound
- Listening to music or songs
Visual activities- Visual activities involve making eye contact, processing what is seen with the eyes and interpreting visual input. Some visual activities might be:
- Stringing beads
- Matching games such as matching cards or matching words to cards
- Picture games, finding pictures in a picture book like the “eye spy” books
Smelling and tasting activities
- Play a guessing game with scratch and sniff stickers. See if he/she can guess the smell without looking.
- Add a new texture to a food your child already likes. For example if your child likes yogurt, try adding some crunchy granola to his yogurt.
- Play a guessing game with foods your child likes to eat. Put two or three foods and have him try them blindfolded.
A great resource for information, books and tools can be found with our friends at SensorySmarts.
"Experience has shown that a child’s progress in ABA directly related to the extent to which his or her parents are involved in his or her teaching/training."
Psychologist Dr. R Reynolds has been working with autistic children for the past 15 years. His career first led him to working with adults, but his interest in children with special needs - particularly autism - stemmed from his daughter’s work with autistic children. With his interest sparked, he began researching extensively and reaching out to colleagues with further inquiry. Towards the end of his lifelong career, he found a niche of working with autistic children, and now in his semi-retired state, he continues to provide services and has even written a book to help parents and other professionals gain a better understanding to introducing and integrating Applied Behaviour Analysis in a child’s care and routine.
Dr. Reynolds’ book, Teaching Children with Autism: An ABA Primer, is written in a simple and direct manner. His intended audience is both parents and therapists, with the stress that parents need to be actively engaged in carrying through the ABA therapy at home.
A key message that Dr. Reynolds hopes readers walk away with is that people need to be aware that a diagnostic label is simply just a label. If a child is diagnosed with autism, there is no answer to why or how; doctors are not able to yet distinguish what causes autism. Remembering that the person is an individual with their own unique strengths and weaknesses is a key factor to their development. Therapy and treatment plans must be developed according to the individuals needs.
Currently, his book can be purchased through his publisher, Lulu, on Amazon, and Parentbooks in Toronto, Ontario. In the future, his book may be available through Chapters. You can also read his personal blog, RMReynoldsBlog.
I had the privilege of attending and presenting at ISTE2013 this year in San Antonio. Thanks to Dell and Microsoft for inviting us and giving us the opportunity to showcase TalkingTiles as part of the Special Education Technology track.
Firstly, this conference was HUGE! Unofficial numbers were over 20,000 educators, IT in education pros, and education technology vendors.
One of the areas where I had some great conversations was around Universal Design for Learning (‘UDL’) and learning and teaching special education. In fact, Mozzaz is now a member of ISTE’s Special Education Technology group.
UDL is an interesting concept that is really part of an overall movement toward design in general that involves engineering for flexibility, for alternative access, options and adaptations to meet the challenge of diversity. With TalkingTiles, our mission is to create an Accessible, Adaptable & Affordable solution for everyone who may require an assistive care app or learning through a mobile device utilizing a lot of the concepts and ideas in UDL.
At its simplest, the scope of UDL is based entirely on three principles:
In real-life practice with our education clients, we actively encourage TalkingTiles to be an integrated component of the individual’s learning program, particularly for a special needs student. TalkingTiles can be used for presenting information through visual symbols and words, to express themselves with personalized pictures and content and to stimulate interest through interactive tiles. This, when used with real objects, games, and their surroundings can make for a real engaging and inclusive learning experience.
We’re proud to be apart of this initiative and look forward to contributing to the content and concepts in driving UDL forward with TalkingTiles.
To learn more about UDL and technology check out:
We have users from all over the world, and through our voice engines (Google, Microsoft, Acapela and iSpeech) have the ability to speak over 40 different native languages and now with TalkingTiles 3.0 we are able to save those special non-English characters from our supported languages. We are always adding more languages so you can refer to the User Manual.
The following are the languages supported through the iSpeech voice engine:
With TalkingTILES 3.0, non-English character sets can now be saved, such as in this example of traditional Chinese:
In TalkingTiles, select the TTS (voice output) engine to use.
Under the SETTINGS Option, select TTS Settings. From there select iSpeech and the language you wish to use. In this example we have selected “Chinese Female”.
Enter your letters for the word for a tile and save.
Clicking on the tile should now speak the word in the language chosen in iSpeech with the characters used.
We will be posting ready-made sample pages in the Public Library for every supported language we have in iSpeech so be sure to visit the Public Library to explore.
We look forward to hearing your stories and how our language support is helping you with assistive care!
All the best!
Rini @ Mozzaz