Intellectual Disabilities

Cambridge, Massachusetts startup, Brain Power, is developing a suit of Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism called Empowered Brain Suite for Autism. The apps encourage kids to interact with their parents and make eye contact through games. The Google Glass Apps take the mobile and PC based apps, which are designed to help kids learn social skills, a step further taking advantage of Google Glass to help children connect with their families in the real world.

Read more about Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism.

The launch of the newest version of Kurzweil 3000 firefly, an award-winning literacy software, was announced by Kurzweil Education, inc.

Major new features include:

  • High-quality Acapela text-to-speech voices
  • Support for the OpenDyslexic font
  • An updated Optical Character Reader
  • Improved scanning capabilities
  • Ability to read EPUB files, images, and locked files providing a superior reading experience
  • Updates to built-in American Heritage dictionaries
  • Addition of 12,000 new Widgit images in the picture dictionary
  • Vocabulary study guides
  • Translation to over 70 languages to enhance comprehension
  • New and updated writing tools, including updates to word prediction and study guides
  • New academic word lists
  • New writing templates such as Analyzing Informational Text and Determining Important Details
  • Enhancements to the Kurzweil 3000–firefly cloud-based Universal Library that provides educators with a centralized, flexible user-management system and usage reporting
  • New teacher templates, including a UDL Lesson with Kurzweil 3000–firefly and a Common Core State Standards Lesson Plan

Kurzweil 3000-firefly helps all students, including those with learning disabilities like dyslexia and English Language learners (ELL and ESL) learn from the same materials as their peers.

Read about other assistive technologies for people with cognitive disabilities

Google donated five pairs of Google Glasses to Newcastle University so that researches could test how they may be used to support people with long-term conditions. A team based at the University’s Digital Interaction group, part of the School of Computing Science, has focused on the acceptability of Glass in their initial studies.

The next stage of the project is focusing on using Glass to deliver discreet prompts linked to key behaviors typical of Parkinson’s. The behaviors included reminding the individual to speak up or to swallow preventing drooling. Glass can also be used for reminders such as taking medication and appointments.

Ghotit Real Write & Reader has helped many people with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other cognitive disabilities when using their personal computers. Now the software, which provides reading and writing assistance for people with these learning disabilities, has been released for Windows Tablets.

This new product for the tablets has the following advanced functionality:

  • An intelligent context-sensitive and phonetic spell checker.
  • An advanced grammar checker.
  • A grammar and phonetics aware word prediction writing assistant.
  • A built-in proofreader.
  • A reader that reads aloud any document or web page.

Dr. Robert Iakobashvili, Ghotit’s CTO and co-founder said in regards to Ghotit Real Write & Reader’s release on the Windows Tablets, “Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our daily lives. We take them everywhere, even sometimes to bed. And Windows tablets, being compatible with a standard enterprise and educational IT, are becoming the predominant tablet platform for work.”

Ofer Chermesh, co-founder and lifelong dyslexic added, “The tablet revolution has affected the way people consume information and communicate. More and more people are adopting tablets and smartphones as the preferable means to communicate with each other. This is influencing the writing assistant tools developed for dyslexics. With the Windows tablet release of Ghotit Real Writer & Reader, people with dyslexia will be able to read, write and correct their text by using a standard tablet touch screen practices.”

Interactive Accessibility published an extensive article on the founding of Ghotit and the functionality of the Ghotit Real Write & Reader product and a comprehensive video review in December of 2013 when the product was only available for the PC.

Children with severe, nonverbal autism may benefit from a technology developed by Purdue University and advanced by SPEAK MODalities LLC. SPEAKall! And SPEAKmore! are iPad apps developed for the company through research by Oliver Wendt, a Purdue assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences and educational studies. Wendt has worked with children diagnosed with autism for more than 20 years.

  • SPEAKall! uses photos and symbols that represent what a child wishes to say and helps them construct sentences using those images.
  • SPEAKmore! expands on SPEAKall!’s vocabulary for children who have advanced beyond the capability of SPEAKall!

The free version of SPEAKall! can handle up to 20 symbols, two activity sheets and one learner profile. The premium versions of the app enable enhanced features:

  • Access to different synthetic voices.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheet. Two learner profiles.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheets. Unlimited learner profiles.

Read Oliver Wendit's profile for more information.

Sprint has been selected as the 2014 recipient of the Change Marker Award for its commitment to mobile accessibility for people with disabilities by the New York charity Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC). QSAC supports children and adults with autism.

Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, will accept the award on behalf of the company during QSAC’s annual gala, which will take place on Tuesday, June 17th, at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York.  This annual award recognizes a company that has made a meaningful commitment to support the needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. They are honoring Sprint for delivering innovative accessible solutions that empower individuals with disabilities.

A joint project of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences and its Faculty of Electronics and Computer Sciences aims to use robots to improve the diagnosis and assessment of Children with Autism. Up until now the process has been highly complex and subjective.

“For children with autism, the robot is a stimulus that is very simple and always the same,” explains researcher Jasmina Stosic. “Its eyes are always in the same place. Its mouth is always in the same place. People are rather complicated for such children because when we talk we make various gestures. And one day we’ll wear a red t-shirt and the next day, a blue one. The robot is one constant stimulus, and the children don’t need to think about so much different information and instead can concentrate on the essence.”

Read more about Robots Diagnosing Autism.

Studies indicate that karate can help improve posture and ambulatory condition, confidence and strength for people with disabilities. Stokes Mandeville Stadium in the UK has partnered with the Disability Karate Federation to bring the martial art to the community through a new project called KickStart 100.

The Disability Karate Federation is offering the initial three months of karate classes for only 15 pounds. The classes will be held at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in November.

Research conducted in 2012 indicated significant changes in the white matter of the brain in karate practitioners leading to understanding the role of white matter connectivity as it relates to motor coordination and how the brain changes may relate to the development stage in which learning begins.

More information on karate for people with disabilities can be found on the Stoke Mandeville Stadium website.

Tracy Gray and Alise Brann are the authors of a new book, published by Brooks Publishing, on emerging trends in autism services.

Grey, leader of the Center for Technology Implementation at AIR, explains, “The convergence of mainstream technology and assistive technology is a critical milestone in promoting accessibility and independence for users with disabilities. We have been tracking trends in educational technology and assistive technology for the past decade and they indicate a shift toward portable, networked, customizable, and multitasking tech solutions with touch interfaces that mirror consumer technology.”

Read more on the book “Technology Tools for Students with Autism”

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