As a parent of a son with Asperger’s and a son with Down syndrome, Cristen Reat is always looking for ways to use technology and apps to help her children in their daily lives. Cristen co-founded BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, to help create a community of parents, therapists, doctors, teachers, and people with disabilities who share information about using mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to improve the lives of people with special needs.
Caring for someone who has a disability, chronic illness, disease or injury can be demanding and overwhelming, but an extra pair of hands can be as close as the smart phone in your pocket. Whether you are a doctor, nurse, therapist, parent of a child with a disability or even a spouse of someone who had a stroke, there are many types of apps that can be used to manage information, assist with communication and improve health outcomes.
BridgingApps helps people of all ages and abilities learn how the devices they use every day can be leveraged to improve their physical, cognitive, and social outcomes. By providing app reviews based on skills, rather than age or diagnoses, caregivers and professionals can focus first on identifying the skills they are looking to address (such as writing or communication), and then on ways to use mobile devices and apps to develop and improve them.
Mia is a 7-year-old with an undiagnosed disability, and she is non-verbal. Mia has been working with BridgingApps and a speech therapist for the past year learning to use an iPad mini paired with a communication app to enable her to “talk” with her family, friends and classmates. Below she tells her mom what she will do at school.
Prolqouo2Go, the app shown above, is just one of a number of apps that can be used to help improve communication skills for a range of situations. For example, adults who have suffered a stroke or children who are temporarily or permanently non-verbal (such as a child on a ventilator) may also need to address the same skill of communication to help direct and understand their care, reduce frustration and stay connected.
Using Apps to Track and Manage Health Conditions
In addition to helping Mia find her voice, BridgingApps empowers caregivers and professionals by assessing apps to track and manage chronic health conditions.
Many people with disabilities have medical issues that can be complicated and overwhelming to manage. Below are a few examples of health-related apps that BridgingApps has trialed and found successful with people who have disabilities:
For many caregivers and healthcare professionals, mobile devices can be a powerful tool in integrating a care team and engaging the patient in their own care. With thousands of apps coming onto the market every day, BridgingApps’ goal is to help users of all abilities find technology solutions to develop skills, reach goals, and reach their full potential.