EdRev (Education Revolution) in April, produced by Parents Education Network, had a new focus: technology. Among the many products being displayed was AppWriter developed in Denmark. They claim this is the first text editor for the iPad offering users of all ages with reading and writing disabilites the necessary tools for unlocking a world of information. All tools are seamlessly integrated and comprise text-to-speech, context based word suggestions, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and the special Dyslexic-font. Below is listed some of the App’s attributes. (Content from their website.) I thought this product worth mentioning because it combines many different tools. Sadly, it’s limited to just the IPad.
No Wifi or 3G
There is no need for Wifi or 3G access. Everything is embedded in AppWriter and runs directly on the iPad.
The App offers high quality synthetic voices to ensure a great user experience. All menus and buttons are read aloud. And, one can choose between different reading strategies:
- Read from cursor position
- Read selection of text
- Words and letters can be spoken back as you type.
Visual tools highlight the text as it is being read aloud.
Word prediction enables you to develop your writing skills by providing the tools to construct sentences with ease. Context based word suggestions will allow you to produce high quality work and reduce the time it takes to do so. AppWriter predicts the word you want to use next. This means that you will be less likely to make grammatical or spelling errors. Word prediction is available with the ability to hear each word before selection.
The powerful Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology in AppWriter means that any paper document or image becomes accessible. Through the integration of Mobile OCRKit, textbooks, photocopies and handouts are easily converted into text documents. The text can be spoken out loud by AppWriter with color highlighting or edited.
Please note that good OCR results require the new iPad.
How do you manage the created document? It can be emailed, copied to clipboard for use in another app or exported to Dropbox or Google Docs.
The Dyslexie font is another great feature in AppWriter. The specific characteristics of the Dyslexie font make it easier for people with dyslexia to distinguish the individual letters. This reduces the number of reading errors as well as the effort it takes to read the text.
To learn more
In early December PEN (Parents Education Network) hosted two speakers from the Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic, Richard D. Abbey, Ph.D., Clinical Neuropsychologist and Diana Barrett, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist. Their focus was three complex issues: Depression, Anxiety and Learning. I was impressed with the ease that these two specialists shared the podium as they imparted their expertise. A more detailed background on both speakers can be found at the conclusion of this blog.
They began their morning talk with a focus on depression, advising us that it appears differently with children and adults. For a child, irritability is a key element. They become very edgy and display a lack of interest in something that they previously very much enjoyed, walking away from any involvement with it or others. Whereas a tip the speakers provided to indicate whether an adolescent might be in a depressed state is sleeping till noon or complaining about a tummy ache. These are safer ways for an adolescent to express depression. If there evolves a pre-occupation with poetry whose topic is life threatening, it could mean the adolescent is exploring the possibility. The challenge for a parent is discovering whether the comments are simply anxiety which interferes with a child’s functioning or whether the issue comes from a depressed state.
Often depression comes when there is a problem with learning. This causes emotional issues. Ask yourself the question: are the emotional issues out of control? Or is depression causing a learning problem? It is clear that when a child, adolescent or adult is depressed, this state interferes with other and important daily functions.
The frontal lobe of the brain is where Executive Functioning (ie: skill building) occurs. It can be one of the first segments of the brain affected by depression or anxiety. Kids who can’t keep information being taught in their mind are offering a good clue that this skill is not working well. Perhaps the school teachers are unable to track the child’s reading skills which can result in their teaching approach not matching the way the child learns. When a student hears from a teacher: “try a little harder” or, “we just told you” when they are not doing what is being asked, more than likely the child/adolescent internalizes, “I am stupid.” This can lead to depression.
There is another clue: Is the student taking a long time to accomplish a task, especially if there is sequence of tasks to accomplish with the project. This inability can lead to the student getting caught up in right and wrong. And, then they begin to say to themselves if I can’t do it perfectly I am not going to do it at all. Their anxiety becomes dominant.
These are some questions the speakers provided to begin assessing whether your child/adolescent is experiencing anxiety or depression:
1. Is anything significantly different in any domain of your child’s life?
2. Is their day to day functioning different from the norm?
3. Does the child have a problem reading aloud. Do they lose their place, skipping
words or replacing words?
4. With Executive Functioning: is there a switching of letters and numbers? Can they sort out a lot of information being taught? does their attention keep varying?
5. Are you concerned that your child may not be safe?
There are solutions/interventions to these tell tale signs: A few are listed below.
1. Professional emotional and learning assessments to diagnose what is happening with your child.
2. Cognitive Behavior Therapy. The process focuses on solving problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions: I looked up the word “cognitive” on Wikipedia for a definition. It refers to the following skills: attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. The speakers had some good news about the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavior Therapy confirming that 75% of the time there is some kind of improvement with anxiety and depression.
3. Medications: The speakers did not spend much time on this topic. They did comment that kids on medication do seem to have a working memory problem. This is a controversial issue which has been discussed at PEN many times. See former PEN and Emotion blogs within my various blogs for more information.
3. Reading interventions. The speakers cautioned parents to undertake due diligence before taking action. Some therapies only look at a part of the problem – which may or may not be appropriate for your child. For an overview the speakers recommend using the National Reading Panel. http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org.
4. Executive Functioning Coaching. The need for this skill may not present itself until college level. When it does, coaching is very important. Each person needs to learn
how to plan, how to live with goal oriented behavior.
5. Software: These speakers were promoting the use of a Pulse Pen. It records what is being said and relieves the need for the listener to take notes. They also mentioned the Intel Reader which was discussed in more detail in the previous PEN blog.
6. Cogmed: This process helps improve working memory, expand attention and executive functioning. http://www.cogmed.com/about-working-memory
7. What to do at home: Adjust expectations of your child: Set realistic goals. schedule free time along with time with you, the parent. Have a listening ear, find a way to bring up the topic you want to discuss or to hear more about from them.
8 School: School placement is very important. See previous PEN blogs on this topic.
These speakers gave me a giggle when they said: We have never spoken to a parent who didn’t think that they were right. A part of me, Ann, who is writing this blog and is not a parent, sees that part of needing to be right in myself. It takes time to undo that belief. If you, as parent are so challenged, give yourself time to learn more about the topic. Yes, I know sometimes that’s a difficult step for a parent to take. Our ego can make it difficult for us to accept there is a learning challenge. Your goal is to keep the best interests of the child to the fore. Here’s a sobering comment made by the speakers. There is evidence now that if one parent experiences depression, the risk for the child developing depression goes up. So, if you as parent experience the same issues as the child, the speakers said it helps the child if the parents also do the interventions.
The speakers urged the parents to go to gatherings, like EdRev in San Francisco, a yearly event produced by PEN which occurs at the Giant’s Baseball Park. Here parents can intermingle with hundreds of other parents and learning specialists and Depression, ansietydiscover ways to increase their knowledge base on the issues facing their child.
Remember, the brain is neuroplastic, it can and does change!
The speakers were:
Dr.Richard Abbey is a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD, learning disorders, and other neurocognitive and emotional conditions. Prior to opening the Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic in Palo Alto, Dr. Abbey was a clinical faculty member at Stanford University School of Medicine/Lucille Packard Hospital. His areas of specialty include ADHD (and non-medication based interventions for ADHD), learning disorders, pediatric brain tumors, autism, and treatment of neurocognitive deficits.
Diana Marchetti Barret, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who assesses and diagnoses learning disorders, developmental disorders (e.g. autism, aspergers), mood disorders, and ADHD. Dr. Barrett completed post-graduate work at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute and post doctorate training at Stanford University School of Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Barrett also has specialty training in Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, non-medication treatment for ADHD, and Pivotal Response Training (PRT) for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The speakers can be reached through: Abbey NeuroPsychological Clinic located in Palo Alto, CA. They offer ccomprehensive neuropsychological evaluations for infants, children, and adults. http://www.abbeyneuropsychologyclinic.com
During EdRev sponsored by Parents Education Network (PEN) at the Giants Baseball Park one of the seminar discussions focused attention on The Future of the Special Education Services in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) who are transitioning from Youth to Adulthood.
The two leaders were:
Cecilia Dodge: Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, San Francisco Unified School District
Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families
At the outset the speakers provided a brief outline on the approach being taken at SFUSD. Their Special Education Services are guided by a US federal law, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This legislation indicates how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 in cases that involve 13 specified categories of disability. All States have elected to accept federal funding under IDEA.
Six Principles on which IDEA was built are:
- Free and appropriate public education
- Individualized Education Program (IEP)
- Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
- Requirement of parent participation
- Procedural safeguards to ensure rights of children with disabilities and their parents will be protected.
With this background, the speakers focused their presentation on the needs of a child who will be transitioning out of high school into the work force. They recommended that parents look at this transition process utilizing the following five-step outline.
- What are the child’s goals for the future?
- What skills does the child have? What skills do they need to pursue his or her goals?
- What support and services will they need to pursue these goals?
- Where should your child receive these supports and services and who should provide them?
- How can a parent ensure that the plan for the child is being implemented?
The speakers commented that if a youth has an IEP, then, by age 16 the IEP should include transition planning. Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families, informed us that her organization provides training for parents in the process of transition which also includes strategies to include the youth in this transition planning, ensuring the youth is leading their transition plan by providing input.
At this point, the attendees formed two groups to outline their recommendations for SFUSD. A format was provided: How do you feel about the topic of transition?
Some of the comments were:
Relating to the heart:
- Kids need to be invested in the process of transition.
- SFUSD needs to provide employment choices for those who don’t know what they want to do.
- Parents, themselves, need to do goal setting. Be a role model. Show your child what you see doing when you are older and outline the skills you need to acquire to make that happen.
- Provide an environment which sets the student up for success.
- Let the student/son or daughter know that if they need you, you are here for them. Give them space to explore to be sure they have a place to be happy.
- Remember fear goes with the unknown. As a parent, work with your kid to expand the potential of opportunities. Be careful not to say “no” too often.
- One teacher commented that she has a fear for one of her students because her student’s goal is to be a stripper.
Relating to the Head: What does your youth need to know and/or what additional questions do you have that would helpful to us in our planning at SFUSD?
- Make unknown known.
- Provide the necessary skills for what their heart wants.
- Recommend that parents let go so their kids can have their head to explore and go for it.
How will a supervisor or boss relate to our child? Perceptions are at issue.
Disclosure: How much do students need to tell future employers?
If students are given a right they have a responsibility. How do we re-enforce this?
Relating to Hands: What ideas do you have for SFUSD to improve the transition to adulthood? What ideas do you have about community partners?
- Let the students run the IEP rather than the professionals. Currently students speak the least at the IEPs.
- Provide means to assist the student to determine their likes and dislikes. Students need to learn hands-on skills: eg vocational
- Offer more vocational and workablility opportunities.
- Providing the family with links to organizations and services that the child is interested in. Parents don’t have the time so school needs to do it.
- More mentors and, of course, a common theme, more funding
- Develop links for networks including social networks: eg Twitter, Facebook.
I found this seminar very useful. As I am not involved with the school education process my only connection is through the press. The details provided by the leaders of this seminar and the feedback from those attending has given me a different frame of reference.
Juno Duenas, Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD):
phone: 425 282 7494, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Cecilia Dodge: San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD
Phone: 415-379-7697, e-mail: email@example.com
Note: Juno Duenas reviewed this blog before posting and added information to make the description more complete and accurate. Thanks, Juno.