There are many great assistive technology (AT) devices on the market for a wide variety of purposes. It is not my intention to list all of them in this post, nor is it my intention to list a few favorites in every category. These are just a few of my favorite AT devices and apps that can be used daily for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.
Amazon Echo & Google Home
Both of these devices are similar. Amazon Echo has been out longer and can be found in more homes with more extensive reviews. Both devices can search the Web and control your lights and other compatible devices with your voice. Amazon Echo will allow you to order items from Amazon quickly and easily. You can also create task lists and add events to your calendar using both devices. I love these devices because it allows individuals with mobility limitations great freedom in independent living situations. They take up very little space on a counter, and Amazon Echo can be paired with the smaller Amazon Echo Dot to have service anywhere in the living space.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
PECS is a form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) that is low-tech and low cost. There is a learning curve and official books to train professionals in using the system. PECS training is typically going to come from a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) and should not be chosen without consulting one. I love PECS because it is extremely versatile and image cards can be created from home. It is not perfect for every individual; however, it is the first option I always recommend to try first.
Pomodoro Technique Apps
The Pomodoro Technique involves setting a timer to work on a task for a set amount of time and another timer for designated breaks. There are many apps available for smart phones and tables in the Google Play store and Apple App store. Other desktop and laptop apps can be joined with the pomodoro apps to block distracting Web pages during your session (e.g., cold turkey). These apps can be great for individuals with ADHD or other disabilities that make attention and staying on task difficult. These apps can be used at home or in the workplace. I use them myself from time to time, and believe they are great free AT options (although you will have to pay for more advanced versions of some of the apps available).
The commercial market is full of different fidget toys. I cannot recommend one over the other as it depends on the individual. I am excited to see the Fidget Cube come out in the spring of 2017, as it has six sides, each with different fidget options. My favorite fidget toy right now would have to be anything you can make yourself. An old click top pen covered in pencil grips is a great low cost DIY fidget toy, and you probably already have the materials available in your home or classroom. The pen has click, spin, tap and squeeze options. You can find other DIY fidget toys by doing a Google or YouTube search.
Bluetooth is found in every smart phone, tablet, and in most laptop and desktop computers. Bluetooth allows you to connect compatible headphones to listen to audio wireless. It allows keyboards and mice to connect wirelessly. An individual can place a keyboard in an ideal location and use headphones without wires getting in the way or limiting distance. Bluetooth headsets allow the user to use voice commands or speech-to-text while cutting out environment noise and without the limits of cords.
This was not a comprehensive nor detailed list. More in depth reviews of AT and DIY ideas will be discussed and demonstrated in future blog posts.