Main Category: Autism
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Article Date: 04 Sep 2012 – 8:00 PDT Current ratings for:
App On iPod Touch Helps Autistic Adults Work More Efficiently
With difficulties related to behavior, communication, cognition, and sensory processing, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a hard time not only finding a job, but keeping the job as well. In the United States, just 15% of adults struggling with ASD are getting paid for some type of work. However, according to new research, people with the disorder are able to work more efficiently with the task management and organizational features on personal digital assistants (PDAs).
The research consisted of case studies that demonstrated the use of Apple® iPod touch® PDAs as vocational supports, which was published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Tony Gentry, Ph.D., of the Department of Occupational Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and lead author, explained:
“Strategies that provide enlightened workplace supports are clearly needed in order to help people with ASD find useful work and perform successfully on the job. Adults with ASD often have valuable assets and strengths that are sought after in the workplace, such as logical and mathematical ability, exceptional computer skills, or photographic memory.”
The cases took place over a 4 year period, involving the participants in a randomized trial so the experts could observe the use of iPod touch® PDAs as job coaching aids at the participants’ work.
One participant, a daytime custodian at a fast-food restaurant, Jeffrey, struggled with moving from one task to another and could not remember the steps needed to retrieve and stock condiments or to clean the bathrooms. He would show “calming behaviors” (like spinning and humming) whenever he was stressed that he couldn’t do what was needed.
In order for Jeffrey to be able to switch from task to task, the therapist set reminder alarms on the iPod to cue him what to during his shifts. Step-by-step checklists were created using the Notes application so he would be able to efficiently finish each task.
He showed improvement within a week with the help of the reminder cues and task notes. A year later, Jeffrey is thought of by his boss as a reliable employee and will continue to use his new helpful tool on the job. Another participant, a 60 year old woman named Grace, with epilepsy, autism, and mild cerebral palsy, uses the device to help manage her commute on a specialized transportation bus. She use to think that the bus missed her if it was late, which caused her to panic and leave her purse on a park bench and step into the traffic to check to see if it was coming.
She now has alerts set to remind her to go to the bus stop and to call the transportation company if the bus is late. To help her relieve some of the stress while waiting for her ride, she has podcasts of some radio shows and music. The device also contains a custom-made video for Grace to watch how to wait for the bus safely, and what to do if the bus does not come. The subject also uses the iPod at work to help her stay on task and see what needs to be done next. Six months later, Grace is independent and ably, according to her manager.
Researchers observed another subject, Lily, struggling with Downs Syndrome and ADS, who does housekeeping work in the Mother Infant unit of a hospital.
She becomes angry when someone corrects her performance or when someone changes her normal work schedule, which makes her react with inappropriate behaviors like crying and stumping. The participant cannot navigate a calendar on her own, read, or tell time.
She has a verbal application called VoCal on the device thats provides spoken word alerts since she cannot read. The reminders tell her to clock in to work, take breaks, switch tasks, and recharge her iPod.
To show Lily how to complete tasks properly and to remind her to react appropriately when she sees changes in her workplace, she uses the Storykit application which provides verbal prompts and pictures.
If she finishes a day without any childish outbursts, she receives a reward, such as free time to play songs or games. Her success is recorded with the iReward app.
Lily’s work performance improved because of the device, and she also saw a reduction in the behavioral challenges she normally faced. Unfortunately, she misplaced the device after a month and quickly fell into her old routine, but once she received a replacement, she quickly gained independence again in her workplace.
Any generalizations are difficult to make from these three cases because of a wide range of variables in work settings, personal characteristics, and duties, Dr. Gentry pointed out. They do show, however, the flexibility of PDAs as workplace supports for those suffering with ASD.
“This is an exciting time for anyone in the fields of education, physical rehabilitation, and vocational support, where we are seeing a long-awaited merging of consumer products and assistive technologies for all. Field-based research in real world environments is essential to help us determine how best to use these tools to help our clients live more rewarding lives.”
Written by Sarah Glynn
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today
Visit our autism section for the latest news on this subject. The Apple iPod Touch as a vocational support aid for adults with autism: Three case studies
Tony Gentry, Stephanie Lau, Alissa Molinelli, Amy Fallen, Richard Kriner
Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation September 2012 doi: 10.3233/JVR-2012-0601 Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
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