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Using Tech to
Teach Life Skills
Daily Star-Journal (Warrensburg, MO) - 7/6/2012
WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- Developmentally disabled clients of Johnson County Board of Services’ day habilitation program use Apple technology to learn social and other life skills.
Life Skills Director Shirley Beeker said the Board of Services Foundation bought four iPads in February, two for the group homes and two for the day habilitation program.
"They came in and asked what we could use as far as technology goes and we said iPods and iPads," Beeker said. "They are just intuitive for our clients to use. They just know to pick the thing up and to touch the screen."
Beeker said iPad applications reinforce skills taught by the day program’s personnel.
"They are used to help with functional skills and social skills," Beeker said. "We use them to supplement instruction. For example, if I’m working with someone on counting money I will use paper and coins and then have them use the app on the iPad," she said.
The reinforcement, Beeker said, helps.
"It’s great because we have some clients that become easily distracted or have problems with social interaction so they aren’t getting as much from the personal interaction. If we put the iPad in front of them, though, they excel because it’s something directly in front of just them, so there is less of a distraction," she said.
Beeker said a multitude of applications are available, many for free, that help clients with disabilities of all types.
"There is an app for just about everything. We use them for counting money, telling time. There are apps with large fonts, apps with low light for those with light sensitivity and there are even some that have color coded timers that are used with some of our clients with autism that have trouble with regular timers," she said.
The software also helps those with reading or language disabilities.
"We use apps for phonetics and reading as well," Beeker said. "So if a person has trouble with or can’t read it says the words for them."
Day habilitation worker Katrina Moreland said she uses applications to teach skills she could not do in person.
"When I am working with the men I use it to show them which urinal to use. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that personally so this is a good way for them to see what that looks like," she said. "It works well with all types of hygiene-related tasks."
The iPads, Beeker said, help teach independence to clients.
"That’s what it is all about. They create independent interactions," she said.
Beeker said Board of Services plans to buy more devices.
"Right now we just have the two we use here and we have 12 clients so we have to limit the time each can spend on it. We definitely have a case where they all want to be the one to get it right then," she said.