New technology empowers families to improve communication, learning and cognition at home

Most of us know a child with a speech, language, or learning disability or an adult who has cognitive or communication deficits due to a stroke or head injury. Formal treatment often ends too soon, leaving people with untapped potential. Schools often only provide special speech therapy services for students who are struggling academically. Many students with articulation disorders and subtle language and learning problems are not seen for remediation. Insurance has placed increasingly stringent limits on therapy for stroke and head injury survivors. Recent research has shown that the brain is capable of establishing new neurological connections when properly stimulated, but it is often difficult for family members to know how best to provide the stimulation. Many families do not have easy access to a speech-language pathologist trained in the use of technology to enhance progress or cannot privately pay for ongoing therapy.

App sharing is a new technology that empowers rehabilitation and education professionals who specialize in the use of technology to help families who want to play an active role in the treatment process. By using screen-sharing technology, professionals can expose families to software, devices, resources, and strategies that can help their loved ones reach their full potential. Families participate at home with their computers, either a PC or a Mac. Participants do not need to download any software. No computer experience is necessary to participate in this program, but high-speed Internet access is required. Therapists invite the family to join the “app/screen share” sessions. Participants view the therapist’s software on their monitor and listen to personalized presentations so they can learn to use the software with their family member. Control of the software can be handed over to the family, who can then test the programs remotely. Sessions can be recorded for later viewing. Multiple family members can participate from different locations. The goal is that after a few sessions, the family feels comfortable helping the person with a disability, who can then become independent with an effective home practice program.

Computers can provide a new world of independence for people with physical, communication, or cognitive disabilities. Online sessions may include suggestions for targeting the recovery of specific communication skills, developing alternative and compensatory strategies with a strong emphasis on the most appropriate technology, accessing community resources, and developing a “plan of life” to improve overall quality of life.

Acting as a lawyer is not easy. There is much to learn to help your loved one who may have difficulty speaking, reading, writing, thinking, and remembering. Time, money, and limited access to trained professionals often hamper an advocate’s ability to help. This new ability for professionals to provide help remotely limits these barriers and enhances a family’s ability to empower their loved ones with the many benefits of technology in education and rehabilitation.

People with disabilities can benefit from technology in many aspects of their lives. Technology can provide clients with a means to compensate for difficulties as well as strengthen weak skills. Computers and other devices, when selected and used correctly, can help improve cognitive and communication skills related to education, employment, recreation, and social and medical needs. Assistive technology can help people increase their independence, build self-confidence and self-esteem, and improve quality of life. Children and adults with a wide range of difficulties resulting from stroke, head injury, degenerative disease, developmental delays and disorders, and learning difficulties can independently manage a wider range of activities with the help of software and devices. to read, write, organize, remember, learn, communicate and search for information.

Many software products and devices on the market today are affordable and easy to use. These tools were produced for a wide variety of audiences: some for people with special cognitive or communicative needs, others for people learning English as a second language, people with low vision, or society in general. In the hands of a creative user, these products can unlock the potential of many customers. Software that reads text aloud on the computer can be used to help improve reading, writing, memory, and speaking. Exercise and practice software can be used to maximize new learning. Word prediction technology can help users think of words, and speech recognition technology can help people who can speak but not write. There are customized email programs, free video conferencing programs, and inexpensive online programs that can be used to help people practice and work independently to achieve their goals.

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