Saturday, May 27, 2006

Autism Spectrum Disorder & PDA Project

A school is using a high-tech device to help students with neurological disorders such as autism and Asperger's Syndrome better manage their lives.
NewsCenter 5's Heather Unruh reported Friday that personal digital assistants are part of class for some students at The League School in Walpole.
"We're helping them with the social pragmatics of language and communication," The League School spokeswoman Clare O'Callaghan said.
People with Asperger's or autism often have a normal IQ but follow obsessive routines and have trouble communicating socially. They rely on visual cues to get them through the day.
Palm Pilots equipped with special software help students stay organized in class and remind them of basic social skills -- to look people in the eye, respond in a timely manner and even keep good posture when speaking.
Tim McLaughlin, 16, has been using a PDA for three years.
"It really helps you with your organization skills and your awareness of where you are, what you're doing at the time and what you need to be doing," McLaughlin said.
Information is uploaded to a Web site where students, teachers and parents can print reports charting their progress.
"Most of the kids are doing much better in the classroom -- aren't interrupting, aren't bringing up extraneous topics, are staying on topic, so for all of the kids the positive aspects of their communication have improved," The League School's Minna Levine said.
"I've seen him being more understanding of his challenges in communicating and using the PDA being able to enter a conversation a little more appropriately than before. I've seen him be more independent and grow from a little boy to a young man," McLaughlin's mother, Joan McLaughlin, said.
The PDA project was funded with a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The next phase is to use the Palm Pilots to help train students with autism and Asperger's for the working world