Saturday, April 22, 2006

PDAs for Kids With Asperger's

A school for kids with Asperger's in Massachusetts has begun a unique program giving autistic students personal digital assistants -- PDAs -- to organize their schedules, rate their own performance in the classroom and provide cues that remind them to perform everyday tasks.

The students periodically make entries into their PDAs, giving themselves demerits for interrupting or chalking up positive points for being attentive and answering questions. The students also use PDAs to manage their personal belongings and time. Melissa Fitzpatrick, an occupational therapist at the school, checks to make sure the students accurately record whether they have completed those tasks. She also is teaching them how to use the PDA to track their schedule of classes and appointments.

The PDA software also allows students to catalog their emotions, like whether they feel happy or sad, peaceful or angry, calm or nervous. This can help determine whether medication changes are affecting them.

One advantage of PDAs is that the commonly used device would not make the autistic person appear different than anyone else.

While looking over data from the League School project, Ron Calvanio, chief scientific officer of SymTrend, the company that provides the PDA software, said the Asperger’s students are quickly learning how to properly act in the classroom and maximize their learning experience.
"We’ve found this is a very powerful tool," he said. "They’ve learned in nine weeks what has eluded them for a good number of their adolescent years."

Full article here.

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