Apps for Adults with Autism

mobile phone with icons around the phone

For adults with Autism spectrum disorders/conditions, there are a number of apps available, on iOS, Android and web-based platforms, that can assist with daily life, including work, study etc. Below is a list of some that we have come across, and found to be beneficial.

Developing habits/routines

Name/Icon Description, Link Price
HabitRPG Habit building and productivity app that uses gamification to motivate. Collect points for completing good habits and avoiding bad habits.

iOS and Android

www.habitica.com

Free to download, in app purchases

Routinely

Establish, track, understand, and be more mindful of your daily routine. Set goals for each of the tasks and habits that make up your day, and then track your completion of those goals. Can send you notifications to remind you to complete your goals, and provides a history view to review past days.

iOS only

www.appadvice.com/app/routinely-track-your-daily-routine/1135990298

Free to download
Todoist Acts as a checklist, organiser, calendar, reminder and habit forming app. Can be shared with others for joint projects, integrated with other apps such as Dropbox and Alexa.

iOS and Android

www.todoist.com

Free, premium versions available.
Work Autonomy Designed to assist with person-generated communication with coworkers and supervisors regardless of linguistic or cognitive skill, tracking task analysis and work schedules independently, and allowing access to concrete information about work expectations, production etc.

iOS only

www.ableopps.com/work-autonomy

Paid, app, approximately €190

Mood trackers

MoodPanda Track your moods using graphs and calendars. Community aspect to offer support and advice

iOS, Android and web

www.moodpanda.com

T2 Mood Tracker Designed to help users track their emotions over time. It comes with six pre-installed areas, including Anxiety, Depression, Well-Being, and Stress. Users can also add and customize additional scales.

iOS and Android

www.psyberguide.org

Managing Over Stimulation

Miracle Modus Designed to help with sensory overload, by providing strong visual stimuli that move in predictable patterns.

iOS and Android

www.seebs.net/modus/

Free
Dropophone Create minimalist melodies for relaxation purposes

iOS only

www.lullatone.com/games/dropophone-app/

Free
Sensory apps Range of sensory apps to help with relaxation and overstimulation.

#iOS, Androd, Web, Chrome

www.sensoryapphouse.com

 

Free
Relax Melodies Melody and white noise app.

iOS and Android

www.ipnos.com

 

Free to download, in app purchases

Relaxation/mediation

Headspace A meditation and mindfulness app. Designed to guide the user through narrated sessions to focus on relaxation and help cope with stress and anxiety.

iOS, Android and online

www.mindspace.com

Free

Please do let us know if you have come across others!

Magnifier for Smart Phones and Tablet Devices: Claro MagX

App to magnify text or objects

Introduction

Claro MagX is an app that converts your iPhone, iPad or Android device into a visual magnifier. It basically makes small items bigger such as small text in a book or newspaper.  Just hold your phone up to whatever you want to magnify.

As the app can use the devices in-built flash, it can be used in a dimly lit area.  Advanced visual features include full-colour mode, two colour mode and grey scale mode. The app features 16 levels of magnification, high contrast and colour viewing options to make the text easier on your eyes.  Freeze mode option – tap the viewfinder to freeze the image for closer viewing. Tap the screen to release the freeze.


More apps from Claro

The good: Available free on iOS and Android and can be used on any tablet or phone.  It makes use of existing technology.

The not so good: Controls are small and hard to see on a small device.

The verdict: Great alternative to a dedicated handheld video magnifiers and is a useful app for anyone, but in particular for individuals with vision impairment.

Sensory Pod – Thinking outside the box

It appeared in the Cosmo room as if out of nowhere. Looking like a section of the international space station (one of the newer parts), it immediately grabs the attention of anybody who enters the room. Enable Ireland Children’s Services have been trialling a Sensory Pod over the last few months and both staff and clients are enthusiastic about it. I had a quick chat with Robert Byrne, creator of the Sensory Pod, while he was making some minor modifications based on feedback from our therapists.

view of the sensory pod from the side. sliding door is open, blue LED details on the end

In a previous job Robert Byrne spent a lot of time visiting manufacturers in Asia, which is when he first came across the idea of a capsule hotel. Due to population density, space in some Asian cities is at a premium. A capsule hotel consists of rooms that are only the size of the bed they contain. You have enough head room to sit up in bed but not enough to stand. In this corner of the world with our open spaces and high ceilings the thoughts of a night in such accommodation might cause us to break into a claustrophobic sweat, Robert however only saw an opportunity. Through a family member, Robert had experience of Autism. A common symptom reported by people with this form of neurodiversity is oversensitivity to stimuli: light, noise, touch and smells. It is this aspect of Autism that can actually prevent some people from engaging in everyday activities such as work and education. Robert noticed how successful the capsule hotel room was at shielding its occupant from such outside stimuli and realised it could be a very cost effective way to provide a safe and comfortable space for schools and colleges.

He took the basic design of the capsule room and customised it to suit this new function. inside the sensory pod with green mood lighting. Control console and mirror at centre on frameAlong with his design team, he reinforced the plastic shell and mounted the pod in a steel frame, with an extra bed that can be pulled out alongside the Pod. This provides a comfortable area for a parent or caregiver to relax when the Pod is occupied. They added LED mood lighting, temperature control, audio and 22” learning screen. The design is modular, allowing customisation to best suit individual client’s needs, full details are on the Sensory Pod site.

It’s all very well having a good idea but it takes a particular type of person to be able to see it through to a marketable product. The Sensory Pod have built an extensive portfolio manufacturing and designing sleep systems and safe spaces for some of the Largest Corporate companies across Europe and further afield. They played a key role in Dublin City University’s successful Autism Friendly Campus initiative. Students can apply for a smart card and book a time slot. Using their card they can open the pod door and escape the hustle and bustle of campus life for an hour.

Richard keeps it simple

We recently assessed a user “Richard” for an aid to make it easier to directly access his iPad. And in our journey to find a solution, we trialled the Stylus Pack from the National AT library.

 styluses suitable for a wide range of needs

Above photo and description  below are taken from the National AT Library site:

The Stylus Pack is a selection of styluses suitable for a wide range of needs. Each stylus is designed for people who have difficulty interacting with the iPad screen. Users can firmly grasp the styluses in order to use with the iPad. These items are suitable for an individual user, or a range of users with diverse needs. Features/Items Included: iPad Flex Stylus iPad Strap Stylus TBar Stylus Pogo Stylus Ball Top Stylus.

But let me begin at the beginning

Richard is non-verbal and uses the Allora communication aid daily. It is mounted onto his powered wheelchair. Richard drives his powered wheelchair with his right hand and also accesses the keyboard on the Allora with his right index finger. He has a limited range of movement of his right upper limb, but it is also his only means of access. Richard’s wheelchair does not have blue tooth capability.

Photos below by the author with consent by Richard.

Person using an Allora communication machinePerson holding onto power wheelchair joystick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard is also a writer and accesses a PC by using the standard keyboard (positioned in a specific way on a height adjustable desk) and using mouse keys instead of an external mouse or joystick.

So this gives you an idea already that Richard has more than one way of accessing technology with his right hand. So why does he struggle with direct access on the iPad? Richard’s fingernail bed is very long. And even when his nails are at the shortest it can be it sticks over the top of his fingers. Therefore when he taps onto the screen, his nail makes contact and not his skin. This, along with very limited finger extension (he has strong flexor patterns in his wrist, metacarpal phalangeal joint and distal phalangeal joint) makes activating a touch screen very difficult/impossible.

But we wanted to try and find a solution as he has a (very old) iPad that he would love to use more as it is portable, as opposed to a PC.

Due to Richard’s limited hand function, unfortunately, none of the items in the Stylus Pack proved to be successful. The standard type pen stylus aids looked promising and the stylus we received as a freebie from the CSO in Cork is up to now the most successful. When I returned the Stylus Pack to the National AT Library I also added a CSO stylus into the pack.

standard type pen stylus

It takes great effort from Richard to maintain grip of the stylus and when it slips out of his hand he is not able to pick it up again and adjust his grip independently. Not shown on the Stylus Pack photo is also conductive thread. I did embroider his winter glove’s right index fingertip with the conductive thread but I am yet to see if this is successful. Past trials have shown limited success.

 

Richard loves his Allora and of course wants to continue to use it. It is a real workhorse. The battery lasts for long periods, it is at hand, no wifi needed and no access issues on that keyboard! But, he really longs for a more portable way and quick access to word processing, the internet and social media participation.

 

In the meantime, we have assessed Richard for a new moulded seat and powered wheelchair frame. This controls on the frame will also have blue tooth capability. I chatted to Richard about this and reminded him that he will be able to access a PC or laptop/tablet via the new powered wheelchair’s joystick. And as it is, he is toying with the idea of buying a new computer/tablet to replace the old iPad anyway.

 

So, at this stage:

* Richard continuous to use his Allora for communication.

* Uses a PC with an external keyboard to access word processing software, the internet and social media.

* Uses the CSO stylus for accessing the iPad mounted off a removable mount. This for now, it the alternative for when he is not close to a PC. Having to hold onto a stylus remains a frustrating way of access.

 

What is up next?

*Once Richard’s new powered wheelchair has been funded and issued, Richard will get used to the new joystick for driving, but also for accessing computers.

*He will continue to use his beloved Allora and PC as always.

*And after investing in a new tablet computer he will have the added bonus of accessing it via the powered wheelchair’s Bluetooth function.

The Stylus Pack is a great option to have on loan and it gives us a variety of ways to try and access a touchscreen. Unfortunately, in this case, it did not help us to come up with a solution. BUT:

We are on the right track and without having been able to trial the options, we would never have known.

Therefore the National AT Library remains a great resource!

 

Gerlene Kennedy, Senior Occupational Therapist

Enable Ireland Adult Services, Little Island

Co. Cork

 

 

Soundscape

A line drawing representing a user using directional cue guiding towards a set destination

Microsoft Soundscape is an app providing directional information and description of surroundings to Blind/Vision Impaired users through spatial 3D sound.

 

 

Link to Microsoft Soundscape webpage 

Using Open Street Mapping, a number of customisable features facilitate discovery and interaction with surroundings.

  • My Location – explore current location and direction of travel, nearby points of interest, street names and intersections.
  • Audio Beacon – a directional cue guiding towards a set destination.
  • Markers – tagging customisable locations, and allowing users to orient in relation to previously saved markers.
  • Additional function buttons to explore multiple points of interest “Around Me” or “Ahead of Me”.

Although not a Wayfinding app itself, Soundscape can be used in tandem with a navigational app, giving additional layers of information while still providing walking directions.

Personalisations within the app include an option to toggle between male or female voice and either metric or imperial units of distance measurement.

It must be noted that as the app relies on 3D sound, usage of stereo headphones is imperative.

My usage preference would be a Bluetooth Bone Conducting headset, ensuring that ambient sounds are not obstructed. The control buttons on the headset would also allow for hands-free access to toggle functions within the app. Potentially a useful tool to aid navigation for independent travel, Soundscape could allow me to reach frequently visited locations with better accuracy while informing me of surroundings in unfamiliar spaces.

Unfortunately, Microsoft Soundscape is not currently available to the Irish market, however, I eagerly await the release date.

Startability: for people with disabilities who are interested in entrepreneurship

Startability Line Up

List of participants in Startability Event

StartAbility is an event for people with disabilities who are interested in entrepreneurship. It is organised by waytoB, Rehab Group and L’Arche, as part of Startup Week Dublin.
The event aims to inform, support and inspire people with disabilities who want to start their own business, by showcasing success stories and having an informative panel about the first steps to become an entrepreneur.
The event will take place at Zendesk, located in 55 Charlemont Place, on the 20th of November, from 6pm to 8:30pm.

Agenda:
6:00 to 6:30 Registration & Networking
6:30 to 6:35 Opening
6:35 to 6:50 Ailbhe Keane & Izzy Keane, co-founders of Izzy Wheels
6:50 to 7:05 Adam Harris, founder and CEO of AsIAm
7:05 to 7:20 Fireside chat with speakers
7:20 to 8:00 Panel discussion with Gerry Ellis, Niamh Malone, Fionn Angus and Matt McCann
8:00 to 8:30 Networking

About the speakers:
Ailbhe Keane & Izzy Keane (Twitter: @izzy_wheels)
Izzy Wheels are a brand of stylish wheel covers for wheelchairs created by Irish sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane. Their mission statement is ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out!’. It all began as a final year art college project for Ailbhe in 2016 and has since exploded into a global brand.

Adam Harris (Twitter: @AdamPHarris)
Adam is the founder and CEO of AsIAm, having set up the organisation based on his own experiences growing up as a young autistic person in Ireland. AsIAm aims to give autistic people a voice and starting a national conversation. Over the past five years, Adam has played an incredibly important role in building a more autism-aware and understanding Ireland.

Gerry Ellis (Twitter: @gellisie)
Gerry is blind and is an accessibility and usability consultant under the name Feel The BenefIT. He has worked for over 35 years as a Software Engineer and Mainframe Technical Specialist at Bank of Ireland and is a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society. He was a founder member and first Chairperson of the Visually Impaired Computer Society (VICS) and a founder member of the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD). Gerry spoke at the 2018 Inspirefest conference about using technology to develop a more inclusive world.

Niamh Malone (Twitter: @BraineyApp)
Niamh used to work as a clinical nurse specialist in stroke rehabilitation and had a life threatening rare type of stroke called a sub arachnoid hemorrhage, which changed her life instantly. She now lives with ongoing cognitive impairments and chronic fatigue. Based on her own personal experiences, Niamh created Fatigue Friend, which is a smartphone app that prevents full blown episodes of chronic fatigue through a series of alerts based on recognising the early warning stages of fatigue onset.

Fionn Crombie Angus (Twitter: @fionnathan)
Fionn is the co-founder and CEO of the social enterprise Fionnathan Productions. Fionn, who has Down Syndrome, always had a passion for filming, music, nature and a love for life. Fionnathan is a collaboration between Fionn and his father, Jonathan Angus. Through music, live presentations, videos, and visual arts, they seek to collaborate with diverse people who are passionate about what they do.

Matt McCann (Twitter: @Access_Earth)
Matt McCann is the CEO and founder of Access. Matt has Cerebral Palsy and has struggled with accessibility challenges his entire life. He used his Masters in Software Engineering to create a platform that people could use to easily access accessibility information and upload their own feedback on places they had visited.

Please note: the venue is fully accessible for wheelchairs. Pizza and drinks will be provided, with vegetarian options available.

CHAT – “AT in Education”

Logo for CHAT community hub for assistive technology

CHAT event

The next CHAT event run by FreedomTech will be hosted at University College Cork, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Monday 3rd December at 11.00am.  This December CHAT will be themed “AT in Education”.

CHAT (Community Hub for Accessible Technology) is a Community of Practice of Assistive Technology Service Providers, Assistive Technology Users, Researchers, Funders, Suppliers and Makers that connects the Assistive Technology sector in Ireland.  CHAT is run by FreedomTech, a partnership between Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland.

CHAT is your place to share, listen, learn and build partnerships with others who are interested in supporting independence through the use of technology.  The Disability Federation of Ireland and Enable Ireland have produced an AT Discussion Paper to prompt discussion and action on a more comprehensive national Assistive Technology ecosystem.

If there is anything you think should be added to the programme that would be of interest, please get in touch. Don’t forget the Shout Outs as this gives you the opportunity to share or make any announcements on the day.  Contact the organiser: Sarah Boland: Sarah@freedomtech.ie

Other upcoming events:

November 1st  Jaws 19 Online Training Session 7:00 pm UK
http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/blog/announcing-our-first-free-online-training-session-in-jaws-2019

November 2nd – 5th – HackAccessDublin http://www.hackaccessdublin.ie

Control your mobile phone, PC or TV with your wheelchair joystick

Have you ever considered controlling your computer or mobile devices with your wheelchair joystick?

As well as the basic wheelchair functions such as driving, the CJSM2 –BT also enables control of a computer or mobile devices and so the integration of environmental controls is possible.  The same controls that the user drives the power wheelchair with, typically a joystick, can also be used to control an appliance within their environment.

For example for chairs with R-net controls you can replace the old joystick with a CJSM2 –BT as seen in the video below. This R-net Joystick Module has Infra-Red (IR) capabilities included. IR technology is widely used to remotely control household devices such as TVs, DVD players, and multi-media systems, as well as some home-automation equipment. Individual IR commands can be learned from an appliance’s remote handset and stored in the CJSM2.

Integrated Bluetooth technology is also an option, to enable control of computers, Android tablets, iPads, iPhones and other smart devices from a powered wheelchair. To switch between the devices, the user simply navigates the menu and selects the device they wish to control. The R-net’s CJSM2 can easily replace an existing R-net joystick module, with no system re-configuration or programming required.

As well as Curtiss-Wright’s R-net controls, other wheelchair controller manufacturers have Bluetooth mouse options too, including Dynamics Controls with their Linx controller and Curtis instrument’s quantum q-logic controller.

My Experience with Voice Recognition

Man wearing headset using Dragon naturally speaking

Dragon’s voice recognition software enables people to control their device, create content, browse and write an email, update spreadsheets, surf the Web and create documents using only their voice.

A demo of correcting, formatting and proofreading using Dragon naturally speaking 13.

Further information

The good

Dragon NS provides a means voice to text production not only in word processing applications but also to control your computer operations. This for me is the main advantage over other voice to text programmes- which are often “in app” such as the microphone in the Pages app.

Dragon NS versus other voice to text software- my take on it!

  1. Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC is much more powerful than the built-in voice recognition software in android or within the iPhone (Siri) i.e. less inaccuracies and more time efficient. It can dramatically cut down the time it takes to create email, word documents and other correspondence on your PC.
  2. It Learns. Dragon NaturallySpeaking actually improves through use. It learns about how you speak, how you sound, what words you use and it creates a database called a voice profile. This voice profile matures over time and allows Dragon NaturallySpeaking to become very accurate with regular use.
    1.    Dragon NaturallySpeaking on the PC has “regional accent modelling”. This makes the program far more accurate than basic mobile device speech recognition which uses a generic accent model.
    2.    Dragon NaturallySpeaking adapts to your specific vocabulary. Siri or the Google android speech recognition application do not do this, they run off a generic limited vocabulary.
  3. Amount Processed. Free speech software on your phone can only process 30-second chunks of speech. Dragon speech recognition on the PC is continuous for a long as you can talk and doesn’t need a continuous internet connection.

The not so good

Good flow of speech is important, even if just for short passages. Dragon NS writes everything you say; even inflections of speech such as “mmmm” and “eh”. If a user tends to use these inflections in speech, it will type these inflections. Continuously deleting them can be time consuming and frustrating. Training oneself not to use these inflections can be very tricky.

The user needs to be very cognitively able to command the system with their voice, planning out the actions and remembering specific commands.

The verdict

Fantastic software for the right client, especially if for any reason direct access is not an option. Even if a form of direct access is an option for the client, Dragon NS is still a nice option for long passages of text production. For the wrong client, this software would be more of a hindrance and a frustration than a help.