We're excited that Michelle Lange will be presenting our special OT month webinar Electronic Aids to Daily Living: the Young Child at Home & in the Classroom, on April 28th. The two-hour webinar is simply packed with all kinds of information on using assistive technology to help kids develop cognitive skills, provide independent play, socialization, participation and prepare them for future, more sophisticated technology use. Michelle's work in this field is top notch if you've signed up for the webinar you're in for a very satisfying educational experience. If you haven't signed up, head on over to our course catalog and reserve your seat! Michelle has kindly provided us with a glimpse of some of the things her webinar will cover - so now on to Michelle.
Electronic Aids to Daily Living
Electronic Aids to Daily Living or EADLs: the technology formerly known as Environmental Controls. Why the name change? Environmental Controls technically refers to HVAC heating and air conditioning systems. While EADLs can control thermostats and the A/C, this technology also does far more. EADLs focus on the daily living task at hand, rather than the device being controlled. EADLs provide control of devices in the environment, usually the home, such as audiovisual equipment, door openers, telephones, hospital beds, lights, and simple appliances. EADLs can be accessed directly, by switch and by voice.
EADLs are probably the most underutilized area of assistive technology. Why? Funding is a big reason. Many providers are not overly familiar with this technology, as well. When EADLs are recommended, it is most often for adults, however, young children can benefit from this technology too. Basic EADLs provide intermittent switch control of battery operated toys and simple electrical devices. This provides independence in play, participation, socialization, and preparation for more sophisticated technology use.
Technology for Home and the Classroom
It may be easy to think of using a basic EADL like an AbleNet PowerLink in the home for play. This technology can also be brought into the classroom for participation and socialization. One example is the AbleNet Dual Switch Latch and Timer. Two switches and two toys are connected. One child presses one switch to activate the first toy and the second child presses the second switch to activate the second toys. This creates the chance to play together! This is only the tip of the iceberg. I bet you have much more creative ideas.
Once you have determined the optimal access method, it is much easier to narrow down product options to meet an individual clients needs. Multi-function EADLs can control nearly any device in the environment audio visual equipment, lights, appliances, thermostats, door openers, electric hospital beds, call bells, phones and more. Multifunction EADLs are controlled three different ways: direct (like your TV remote), switch and voice. Some systems allow more than one access method, like voice and switch in case the client needs a back-up method.
One of the available access methods is Direct or finger to button. So why bother? If someone can push a button, why not use a standard remote control? There are several advantages. First, do you or someone you know have a home theater system? This probably includes 6 different remotes and only your 7 years old knows how to start the movie! A universal remote control can combine all these features into one remote so that a client with limited reach doesnt have to manipulate 6 different remotes. If the buttons are too small to press or see (often for all of us), large button remotes are available. For clients with cognitive limitations, a standard remote control just has too many choices. Some remotes limit choices to basic controls such as Channel Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, and Power. Hey, I think my Grandma needs one of those
Ok, so your client needs to use a switch to control an Electronic Aid to Daily Living. What are the product choices? If you are looking for Basic control options, then the AbleNet PowerLink and Switch Latch Timers are your best bet. If you are looking for a Multifunction EADL to provide more control, you have a few options. These include three devices which can all be operated directly or by switch, provide lots of control and have a dynamic screen. AbleNet offers the Jive! and Primo! and SAJE offers the PocketMate. AbleNet also offers the Relax series, which are less costly, but outdated.
The last access method is voice. Voice access is very reliable nowadays, always very cool and still a bit pricey. The client needs a consistent speaking voice. Most systems provide trainings to improve voice recognition and allow multiple trainings so that the client can train from different positions (i.e. wheelchair and bed) or different times of day (to allow for fatigue which can change voice quality). Two of the best options are now offered by AbleNet the Sicare Standard and the Sicare Light. Other options include the Quartet Simplicity and the SAJE PowerHouse. It is important to have switch back up, if possible, so the client can still operate the EADL if their voice is not recognized.
About the Author: Michelle Lange
Michelle Lange, OTR, ABDA, ATP/SMS has over 25 years of experience in assistive technology. A former Clinical Director of The Assistive Technology Clinics of The Childrens Hospital of Denver, her work in this field is extensive. Having authored 7 book chapters and over 100 articles she is also the editor of Fundamentals in Assistive Technology, 4th Ed. Currently, on the teaching faculty of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), she is a member of the Assistive Technology Journal Editorial Board and is also on the teaching faculty of the University of Pittsburgh for the ATP/ATS Review Course. Serving on the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for Wheeled Mobility Advisory Board, she worked as an editor of the Technology Special Interest Section of the AOTA. Michelle is a credentialed Assistive Technology Professional (ATP), Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) and a Senior Disability Analyst of the American Board of Disability Analysts (ABDA).