Come Bearing Gifts and Wearing Them Too! Technology Ideas for Your Family and Friends
Technology Ideas for Your Family
What do an Octopus, a smart thermometer and a QR code have in common? Holiday gift giving ideas for your family and friends! The world of mobile technology is ever changing and wearable technology is an exciting area full of new products that can be helpful for children with all types of special needs. If weighted blankets, chewy tubes or therapy balls aren’t on your child’s wish list this year, perhaps it is time to wow them with technology that is both cool and practical.
At BridgingApps, we trial and review apps that are designed with specific disabilities in mind as well as explore how mainstream apps can be used in unique and effective ways that are beneficial for children with special needs. We have ventured beyond the realm of apps to include wearable smart technology this year and offer a range of gift ideas for children and caregivers.
The products we have highlighted in this article are comprised of items used in imaginative ways to enhance the lives of children with disabilities and their families.
Fitness and Fun
Wireless activity tracker that is fantastic tool for kids, teens and young adults! Being active and getting exercise can be a challenge for children with disabilities, but using a Fitbit Zip can making counting steps and being active fun. This small colorful water resistant device tracks steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. It comes in four colors, can fit in a pocket or can be clipped onto a belt loop, backpack, shirt, or belt.
Find it at www.fitbit.com/hu/shop/zip
App is FREE
Aftershokz Bluez Headphones
Aftershokz are wireless headphones that rest outside the ear, not on or in the ear because they are designed with bone conduction technology, which uses vibrations to conduct sound off of a person’s cheekbones and deliver it straight to one’s inner ear. Many children with sensory issues cannot wear earbuds or headphones, but can tolerate wearing Aftershokz to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.
Health and Safety
Family Locator by Life360
An intuitive tracker app to keep family, friends and caregivers connected. Life360 runs on your mobile device and allows you to view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when your loved ones leave and arrive at home, school or work.
Prior to using Life360 a teen boy with autism wandered away from his home. It took the community and law enforcement nearly four hours to find him safely miles away from where he was last seen. Now, he carries an older version of the iPhone with the Life360 app. His parents say the app is invaluable. If he leaves the house, they are immediately alerted on their device, able to track his movement and even get directions to his location.
Price: FREE. Paid version $2.99 (30 day location history, unlimited places and 24/7 support)
If I Need Help
If I Need Help is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep children with special needs safe in instances of wandering by selling personalized wearable low-tech ID tags. If I Need Help creates personalized wearable QR codes in the form of patches, shirts, pins, clips, ID cards, shoe tags and more that can be scanned or entered into a secure website to view a live profile. The profile can be updated in real time and emailed to others, including law enforcement, if a search is needed.
Price: Free to create a profile and products start at $2.00 and up.
Find it at https://ifineedhelp.org/
Kinsa Thermometer & Health Tracker
Kinsa Smart Thermometer & Health Tracker app is for families and caregivers who want to track health. Although the Kinsa app is mostly used to get and store digital temperature readouts, it can also be used to keep track of other symptoms and medicine. Remember details such as when symptoms began, how high the fever got, or when to give another dose of medication and share it with another caregiver or your doctor. Works best when paired with one of Kinsa’s Smart Thermometers. Choices include Kinsa’s wireless Smart Ear thermometer or batteryfree Smart Stick thermometer for $19.99. During our trial, we found the thermometers and app to be user friendly, fun for kids, and an accurate way to keep track of healthcare information for every household member.
Find it at https://www.kinsahealth.co/
App is FREE
Organization and Independence
Children with Autism: A visual schedule
A Visual Schedule is the first wearable picture-based scheduler designed with children and adults with autism in mind. This app works on Apple smartphone and tablets, as well as the Apple Watch. The intuitive interface makes it easy to create a picture-based tailored daily schedule. This app can be used to empower a child to independently keep track of scheduled activities and understand what tasks need to be completed, how much time is left for the activity, and when to get ready to transition. Understanding and following a schedule is an important life skill that is often difficult for children who struggle with organization and time management.
Octopus SmartWatch is an icon-based watch that helps young children (or anyone who does not yet understand time) begin to learn the concept of time with 3 different modes. The first mode displays a visual of a task to complete set by a parent with a discreet vibration that serves as a prompt. The other two modes teach kids to read a digital and analog clock.
The Apple Watch has several features that busy caregivers or young adults with special needs may find handy. Our favorite feature is the most obvious – the ability to move around the office, house or medical facility hands free. We also appreciate the ease of checking a text or call with the watch quickly in case of emergency with a simple flip of the wrist. Users can also answer texts and emails directly from the watch with pre-programmed phrases or with Siri. An exciting new feature is the ability to track wheelchair movement, allowing wheelchair users to track their fitness goals like anyone else!
Find it at www.apple.com/watch/
If you are interested in searching for more apps, creating your own list of apps and sharing them, please go to BridgingApps.org. BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, is a community of parents, therapists, doctors and teachers who share information about using mobile devices with people who have special needs.
Cristen Reat is co-founder of BridgingApps and a mother who found success when using a mobile device with her children who have special needs. Amy Barry is the Content Manager and Editor at BridgingApps and mother of five children.
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2016 Magazine