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Exploring Innovations: Virtual Reality & Wearable Technology for Autism Support

May 17th

By: Jazabelle Lausell

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?: 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that impacts how people behave, learn, communicate, and interact with others. There are five different types of autism including Asperger’s syndrome, Rett Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), and Autistic disorder. Autism spectrum disorder affects around one in every 36 children, according to estimates from the CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

 

How Technology is Impacting Autism?: 

Technology plays a pivotal role in our lives because it is always evolving and has become woven into our daily routines. Driving, using smartphones, education, healthcare apps, wearable technology, financing, are some examples of how technology is used in a person’s everyday life. Technology can also be a valuable resource for people with autism, providing specialized support to meet their specific needs and difficulties such as augmentative alternative communication for those who are nonverbal and need help expressing themselves whether it is through picture boards or through speech generating devices. 

 

Also, there are devices which allow for early intervention services in support of people with autism. Early intervention electronic technologies facilitate the assessment of developmental milestones, the delivery of therapeutic interventions, and the monitoring of progress across time. 

 

Biggest Technological Trends Expected in the Future for People with Autism:

Technological developments have been crucial in the field of autism spectrum disorder interventions, as they help individuals to receive individualized support based on their specific needs. While there are multiple technological trends that can improve the lives of people with autism, wearable and sensory integration technology, as well as virtual reality and augmented reality therapies, are two cutting-edge breakthroughs that show great promise for improving the lives of people with autism. 

 

Virtual reality and augmented reality interventions provide realistic, immersive experiences in a controlled setting that stimulate real-world situations by generating visual and auditory stimuli. These technological developments have many purposes including sensory integration, exposure therapy, and social skills training. Additionally, exposure treatment using virtual reality enables people to progressively face and get over fears or phobias in a safe and regulated way. 

 

For example,  the Oculus Quest 2 is an independent virtual reality headset that provides realistic virtual experiences which is beneficial for people with autism because it offers a secure setting for activities involving sensory integration, exposure therapy, and social skills training. Hand tracking and spatial audio are two features that improve the immersive experience by enabling users to practice real-world events and interact with virtual settings. 

 

Also, the wearable, smartwatch Embrace2 gadget is made to track physiological signs of stress and seizures. It is helpful for people with autism since it offers immediate feedback on stress levels and suggests practices for relaxation or anxiety management. The smartwatch also integrates with a companion app, enabling caregivers to monitor and evaluate data, enabling proactive support and intervention techniques for autistic people.

 

These therapies offer a supportive framework for enhancing resilience and confidence, regardless of the phobia—whether it is of crowded places or strange surroundings. 

 

Wearable technology and sensory integration tools provide useful ways to deal with the specific sensory sensitivity issues and difficulties with emotional regulation that people with autism face. Moreover, weighted wearables, such blankets or vests, stimulate the body significantly with pressure, which has a relaxing effect and encourages the integration of senses. 

 

In sensory-rich situations, these wearables are intended to simulate the feeling of a hug or light pressure, which helps people with autism feel more centered and focused. Through the reduction of sensory distractions, these gadgets improve focus and increase the effectiveness of daily activities for individuals with autism.

 

In conclusion, the development of wearable and sensory integration technologies, along with virtual reality and augmented reality therapy, offers significant advances for assisting people with autism. By utilizing technology, they are being provided with the resources they need so they can overcome certain challenges they face.

 

Helping People with Autism Through Wearable Tech

May 17th

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by too many sights, sounds, smells or other sensations around you? For people with autism, dealing with sensory overload can be a daily challenge. Luckily, new wearable technologies are being developed to help!

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is how our brains process and make sense of information from our senses - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and movement. Most people's brains can automatically filter and prioritize these sensory inputs.

But for those with autism, the brain has difficulty integrating sensory information properly. Ordinary experiences like a loud noise, bright light, or being touched can feel overwhelming and cause anxiety, confusion, or meltdowns.

Wearable Tech 

Scientists and engineers are creating special wearable devices that can detect sensory overload in people with ASD. These wearables use sensors to monitor heart rate, sweat levels, fidgeting, and other signs of heightened stress or sensory input.

When the wearable detects the person is becoming overloaded, it can send an alert through a smartphone app. The app can then provide calming instructions, relaxing games, or other coping strategies tailored for that individual.

Some wearables can even adapt the person's environment by automatically dimming lights, reducing noise levels, or creating a quieter space until they feel better.

The Benefits of Sensory Integration Help

By helping people with autism better understand and manage their sensory experiences, these wearable technologies can provide major benefits:

  • Reduced meltdowns, anxiety, and confusion
  • Improved focus, learning, and participation
  • Greater independence and self-regulation skills
  • Enhanced quality of life

Wearable sensory integration tools are empowering people with ASD to navigate through daily sensory challenges. As the technology continues advancing, it will open up even more opportunities for those on the autism spectrum.

Some Specific examples: 

Here are five specific examples of wearable technology devices, along with a brief description of the company, device, and how to obtain it:

Fitbit Sense 

 - Fitbit is a leading wearables company known for its fitness trackers. The Fitbit Sense is their advanced health smartwatch that tracks metrics like heart rate, sleep, stress levels, and has an ECG app and skin temperature sensor. It can be purchased directly from Fitbit's website or major retailers.

Oura Ring 

 - Oura is a company that makes the Oura Ring, a sleek fitness ring that tracks sleep, activity, and readiness scores. The ring can be purchased from Oura's website or select retailers like Amazon.

Athos Core 

 - Athos is a smart clothing company that makes the Core shirt and shorts with built-in EMG sensors to track muscle effort and movement. Their apparel can be bought from the Athos website.

Everysight Raptor 

 - Everysight makes the Raptor AR smartglasses designed for sports like cycling and running. The glasses provide real-time data and performance metrics through an augmented reality display. They can be purchased from Everysight's website.

K Wearables Ring 

 - K Wearables offers a smart ring that enables contactless payments via NFC technology. The ring can be used at any contactless payment terminal and can be ordered from the K Wearables website.

 

AI Helping People with Autism

May 16th

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. This includes things like learning, problem-solving, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and understanding language. AI systems use complex algorithms and large amounts of data to mimic human-like intelligence. Some examples of AI you might be familiar with include virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, facial recognition for unlocking your phone, and movie recommendation systems.

How AI Can Help People with Autism

People with autism often face challenges with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Fortunately, AI is providing some helpful tools for individuals on the autism spectrum. One way AI assists is through social skills training programs. These use animated characters, games, and simulations to practice skills like reading facial expressions, understanding tone of voice, and learning conversational cues. 

The AI provides realistic examples and feedback in a safe, controlled environment. AI is also being used to develop customized learning tools. Some apps use AI to create personalized lesson plans tailored to each student's strengths, needs, and interests. The programs can automatically adjust the difficulty level and teaching style. 

Voice recognition and text-to-speech AI can help non-verbal individuals communicate more easily. There are apps that can translate typed text into spoken words or transcribe speech into written text. Researchers are even working on AI systems that can detect signs of autism in babies before typical diagnosis ages. This could allow for earlier intervention and support.

An Exciting Frontier

While still an emerging field, AI is already making a positive impact for people with autism. As the technology continues advancing, we'll likely see even more innovative solutions that can improve quality of life. AI offers an exciting new frontier for creating a more inclusive world.

Some Specific examples: 

Here are five specific examples of AI solutions being used to help individuals with autism, along with brief descriptions of the companies, devices, and how to obtain them:

Behavior Imaging's Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment (NODA) system is an app that allows parents to upload videos of their child for AI analysis to aid in autism diagnosis. It can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

Manatee's BiBli is an AI-powered robot that can talk children through challenging situations and provide therapy exercises. The robot is still in development by the Denver-based startup Manatee in collaboration with Robauto.

SoftBank Robotics' NAO humanoid robots are two-foot tall robots that use AI to interact with autistic children, helping them practice social skills like identifying facial expressions and responding to cues. These robots can be purchased directly from SoftBank Robotics.

Brain Power's Smartbrain is an AI-powered app that provides personalized learning tools and lesson plans tailored to each student's strengths and needs. It can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.

Therapy Box's Speech Blubs app uses AI and speech recognition to help non-verbal individuals communicate through text-to-speech translation. It is available as a free download on the App Store and Google Play.

These represent just a few examples of companies leveraging AI to create innovative solutions for individuals on the autism spectrum, from diagnostic tools to personalized learning aids and communication assistance.

Helping People With Autism Communicate

May 16th

For many people with autism, communicating can be very difficult. They may struggle to use spoken words to express their thoughts, needs, and feelings. That's where assistive communication devices can come in handy!

What are Assistive Communication Devices?

Assistive communication devices are special tools that help people communicate in different ways besides speaking. Some look like tablets or computers with pictures, symbols, or text that the user can point to or press. Others use eye tracking or head tracking so the user can select things just by looking at them.

When someone can't communicate well through speech, these devices allow them to get their message across by typing, touching pictures, or using other methods. It makes it much easier for them to let others know what they want or need.

How Do They Help People with Autism?

Many individuals with autism have challenges with verbal communication and social interaction. An assistive device can be a game changer by providing an alternative way for them to express themselves.

With pictures, symbols, text-to-speech, and other features, these devices give non-speaking or minimally verbal people with autism a "voice." They can use the device to ask for things, share information, tell stories, and have back-and-forth conversations.

The devices can be customized with the person's common words, phrases, images, schedules, and more. This makes communication quicker and tailored just for them.

Getting Devices to Those in Need

Many schools, therapy centers, and organizations are working hard to provide assistive communication devices and training to people with autism and other communication disorders. However, these devices can be very expensive.

There are programs that help cover the costs for families that cannot afford the devices. Funding may come from private health insurance, government services like Medicaid, or grants and loans. With the right device, countless people with autism are finally able to communicate their thoughts and needs more easily.

Communication is so important, and assistive technology is opening up new worlds for people with autism. Having a way to get their message across can make a huge positive difference in their lives.

Some Specific examples: 

Here are five specific examples of assistive communication devices for people with autism, along with brief descriptions and how to obtain them:

Proloquo2Go by AssistiveWare - This is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch that provides a full-featured speech solution. It uses symbols, text, and natural-sounding voices to help users communicate. Available for purchase on the App Store.

NOVA Chat by Saltillo Corporation - A dedicated speech generating device with levels to meet a range of abilities. It has a durable design with customizable vocabulary and access methods like touch, switch, or eye gaze. Can be obtained through insurance funding or purchased directly.

GoTalk Pocket by Attainment Company - A simple and portable low-tech AAC device with a built-in speaker that allows users to record and playback messages. Different models offer varying message capacities. Can be purchased directly from Attainment Company's website.

TouchChat HD by Saltillo Corporation - An AAC app for iPad with a wide range of vocabulary and the ability to create personalized communication pages. Designed for individuals with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities. Available on the App Store.

LAMP Words for Life by Prentke Romich Company - A comprehensive AAC app and program that teaches language development through consistent motor patterns and a unique vocabulary organization. Requires training and can be funded through insurance.

By providing alternative means of expression through text, symbols, recorded audio and synthesized speech output, these AAC devices open up communication for non-verbal or minimally verbal individuals with autism.

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Helping Your Child Shine with Early Autism Intervention

Sep 14 

By: Jasnielle Gonzalez

If your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), starting early intervention services right away is very important. Early intervention uses targeted therapies and support to build developmental skills in young children with ASD. Programs such as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) excel in early intervention for autism. Let’s take a deeper look at how you can set your kiddo up for success! 

 

Family Training 

Comprehensive training gives families superpower skills for helping their child. You’ll learn all about autism, how to teach self-care and communication, reinforcing therapies at home, connecting with other parents, and celebrating each milestone. Ongoing involvement allows consistency and helps you become an expert advocate for your child!

 

Read more: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CM10BNiK346atfO2n8CAa-Nyh4MmV833h34g2qjzH2o/edit?usp=sharing

Understanding Autism in Children

SEP 14

By: Jasnielle Gonzalez

Autism is a different way of seeing and being in the world. Kids with autism have unique strengths and differences that make them special. Here's what parents need to know about supporting your one-of-a-kind kiddo.

What is Autism?

Autism is all about differences in the brain that lead to variations in thinking, communicating, relating and behaving. Autistic kids often excel in certain areas like attention to detail, rote memory, and focused interests, while struggling in other areas like social skills, flexibility, and communication. But these challenges absolutely can be supported with the right help!

Causes of Autism  

While no definitive causes are known, autism likely stems from a combination of genetic and environmental factors influencing early brain development. Ongoing research is exploring genetic, environmental, biological, and neurological factors that may contribute to autism.

Read More here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12hHGBbkFvB8Ltt845OpU8CAkLQ3LX2Qht7n9G7ctCds/edit?usp=sharing

 

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MAY 29

Here is an article from US News and World Reports. Autism is now reported in 1 in 59 children, 1 in 36 children in the state of New Jersey.  This likely due to more diligence and literacy among parents at an earlier date moving them towards earlier detection. However, the word still needs to get out sooner and more vocally to lower income and minority communities who are still lagging behind in both reported cases and the time frame where children are detected with ASD.

Again, in New York State, the Board of Health (BOH) provides FREE autism evaluation and remediation until age 3, at which time the Board of Ed (BOE) takes over and provides detection and remediation services from age 3 to age 5–free of charge. This information is found on our web site on the resources page or email us and we’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

https://www.usnews.com/news/health-care-news/articles/2018-04-26/autism-rates-jump-among-us-children

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Here are 10 tips that I’ve learned over the years
Posted by: admin Tags: There is no tags | Categories: Uncategorized

NOVEMBER 18

Here are 10 tips that I’ve learned over the years (appeared originally in a blog from a wonderful parent from Seattle WA).  (It’s important to read articles on how other autism parents cope around the country and even the world.

I highly recommend everyone setup a daily Google Alert for “Autism” and you will receive 20 or more articles on autism from around the world.

Put on your oxygen mask first. As parents raising kids with significant needs, our own self-care really matters. When kids are diagnosed with autism, we parents begin a process of intensive therapy … but rarely is it mentioned that parents need to make space to take care of themselves, emotionally and physically. When my son was first diagnosed, I didn’t make time to get to the dentist for over two years — and ended up with a nasty cavity that could have been filled easily. We need to be strong for our kids and for ourselves. Prioritize time each day, whether it’s for a 10-minute meditation, a quick walk or whatever you can do to make yourself feel well.
Find your tribe. Whether online or in person, finding peers who can relate to your journey is essential for your sanity and growth. As your children grow up, it really helps to have a couple of friends on your speed dial who “just get it.” Look for parent support groups in your area, contact Parent to Parent, a national organization that matches parent mentors, or check out the Autism Moms of Seattle group on Facebook.
Nurture all of your kids. Autism can take over a family, but nurturing your child’s siblings is essential to your family well being. It helps to make special time for your child(ren) who doesn’t have identified “special needs” to just be with a parent. If your schedule is full, consider doing breakfast before school or work once a month or sneak out for an ice cream date on a Saturday night. Our calendars get packed with therapy appointments so setting a repeating event for time with your other kids can help!

Read More: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TCBmiuJztzoqMWzlkV_B6HxXEZ3U8DdwAM-PAlyTltM/edit?usp=sharing

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NYC Autism Community: Please Join Us on Our Journey to form a Community to Better Service our Children

NOVEMBER 14

Our Story

Co-Founder Richard Schreiber

Co-founding the NYC Autism Community is very personal for me. I am the proud father of an autistic 11 year old girl who is my pride and joy. My daughter has Asperger’s.

Our journey began early on in our daughter Katarina’s life. We knew she was different when she used to listen to a lyrical CD and dance and spin around like a top yet not get dizzy. Kat would also never complain about pain if she fell, hurt herself, she virtually never cried. She also wasn’t terribly verbal until 4th grade.

I tell this story because I want ALL parents to be aware that if they think their child exhibits even a few of the dozen or so autistic characteristics, even as early as a year old, get your child examined. They are FREE early intervention programs offered by the Department of Health (ages 1-3) and even the Board of Ed (ages 3-5). Yes it’s FREE folks—and even intervention services are free.  As early intervention and remediation of Autism is so important—it can even reverse or reduce symptoms—and there are free services available out there, take advantage of them!!!

In spite of all the indicators and the whispers from some family members, no one uttered the dreaded “A” word for autism, at least that’s how we characterized it. It simply never dawned on us that our daughter was autistic. This was 2009-2010 when autism was not on everyone’s minds like today.

 Read More: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O7sAn3z4doaoBLj5fVRU-QkAdny-T1bXULfViJMQcJ0/edit?usp=sharing

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