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  • Posted December 31, 2018

Can Tech Help You?

In my lifetime I’ve been amazed with how evolved technology has come. I’m familiar with Moore’s Law, so I shouldn’t be surprised – however it’s one thing to “know” processing power will double, and another entirely to see it happen. What excites me the most is what this means for individuals with disabilities – the ways it can allow them to experience the world and integrate with their societies (become truly inclusive).

Think of all the apps for smartphones – there are tools providing a voice to those who previously were non-verbal, apps to help track and locate individuals (elope risks) and new ways to travel without personally engaging a taxi driver (Uber, Lyft). These barely scratch the surface, think about what’s on your phone and how these apps have changed your life!

Next let’s look at Alexa and what it can do. Full disclosure – although I wouldn’t consider myself a Luddite I do not have one of these devices in my home. However, I can (and do) appreciate how much freedom they can bring to individuals. Imagine having limited mobility and being able to control much of your house by talking out loud – I can see this being a great equalizer.

For lower tech options – what about teaching your child how to use a dishwasher? Maybe start with how to load it, breaking the steps down according to your process. For example, when I used my dishwasher I would rinse the dishes first (which is a big reason I no longer use it) and then place the dishes in the dishwasher.

If you are teaching someone who has trouble with multiple steps, perhaps have them rinse and place in a dish strainer next to sink. Then, when all dishes are rinsed, have a second step to place dishes in dishwasher – with a picture of a loaded dishwasher laminated to counter as a guide. Eventually you can move to inserting the soap and pressing run. Sure – it may take time and feel like you’re taking too many extra steps; but once they’ve mastered it they can now do their own dishes. Huge step!

My point is you don’t have to wait for some magic tech to be designed to help your child(ren). I believe most of what our children need has been built, it’s up to us to think outside the box about how to incorporate it. Shift your view from how something can make your life easier to how can something decrease your child’s dependency upon you.

As you make this shift, you will undoubtedly find new areas your child will come to rely on you. Please don’t stop innovating, in my opinion the goal should always be to help our children lead lives as independently from their parents as they can. We all have supports – neighbors who watch our pets when we take trips, the friend who calculates the tip at dinner, etc. Your child shouldn’t be any different – although they may need different tools.

So let’s get out there and re-imagine what we thought we “know”. Think about what you already own, and how it may be re-purposed. Work with your child, whenever possible have them tell you what they need help with. They may not know immediately, especially if you’ve always been there for them. So you may have to let them try and not succeed – it’s only a failure if you give up. Start small, and celebrate your wins – they will occur. And celebrating them will help you through the times you don’t succeed right away.