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Gifts Autistic People Actually Want, According to TPGA Community Members

by Shannon Des Roches Rosa Finding gifts autistic kids and adults appreciate isn’t that hard — if you actually find out what individual people like, and you remember that everyone has their own interests and preferences (and that they’re sometimes the exact opposite of other autistic people’s interests and preferences). We asked TPGA’s community of autistic people, parents, and professionals about The Very Best Gifts, and compiled what they said below. Keep in mind that while disability representation among toy companies is improving, it still tends to be underwhelming. And not all gifts will be realistic for every person’s or family’s budget. But hopefully this list will be useful for thoughtful gift-givers. Books  Books Rule [image: white child lying on an orange beanbag in a library, reading a book titled The Fossil Factory] At least five people told us they, or their kid, just wanted books. Specific advice included: Picture…

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How iPads & Tablets Can Support Autistic Learning & Play

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com These iPads have been around for almost three years now, which is rather mind-boggling. Even though tablets no longer attract sideshow-level reactions with every mention, they are still wonderful tools for many autistic kids and adults, and exciting new approaches and apps keep emerging. I teach autism and iPads workshops all over the country (including a class at San Jose’s Morgan Autism Center on February 9th); the following is a general outline of what I’ll discuss, and my current take on iPads and autism. Tablets: Tools, Not Miracles My initial response to seeing my autistic son kick butt using an iPad was elation, 
because he was instantly able to learn and entertain himself independently. However, tablets are not for everyone. Evaluate tablets and apps before buying. Tablets encourage presuming competence by enabling visual and alternative communication and learning. Competence expressed and recognized increases self-confidence. Benefits:…

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Popplet: An App for Social Cognition

Jordan Sadler MS, CCC/SLP www.jordansadler.net Editors’ note: Jordan is a pediatric SLP, so kids are the focus of her post. However we think the Popplet app and strategies Jordan describes so well could work for all ages. I want to share my review of a fantastic app that I’ve been successfully experimenting with in my social cognition work with kids. Popplet was designed to create visual maps, presentations, and brainstorms across environments such as work and school. It would make a great visual mapping tool for kids who are gathering information for a class research project, for example. I recommend you take a look at the examples provided by the developer, because the sky is the limit as far as ways to use this app. So far, I have used the Popplet app in a couple of really fun ways. First, I found it to be a simple means to…

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How Apps Can Support Social Skills

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com www.blogher.com Sometimes I think social skills apps are redundant, since iPads are themselves such social magnets. These tablets can motivate people of all abilities to interact, and give them a common ground for communicating. But as social skills are multi-faceted, and since different folks need support in specific areas, I am grateful for the variety of apps that allow me to turn my son Leo’s iPad into a custom social skills springboard. Leo doesn’t always use apps developed specifically for fostering social skills. Instead, he relies more on apps created for communication and labeling purposes. Leo has a strong social urge, but he’s often overwhelmed by the factors involved — simultaneously processing names, body language, and words. He appreciates apps that simplify the socialization process, streamline his choices, or help him learn to identify people consistently. Leo needs practice and options for learning to recognize…

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Leo and Autism Acceptance Month

We’re featuring “Slice of Life” conversations with Autistics of all ages — kids through adults — throughout April’s Autism Acceptance Month. Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label. We are the people in each other’s neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other — the more visible autistic people and children are — the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope. Today we’re talking with eleven year old Leo, who prefers action to conversation. He answered the first two questions below himself, otherwise the answers are mostly videos, photos, and his mother’s observations, which she hopes are accurate — and which are in italics. Transcription: What is your name? Leo Rosa. How old are you? Eleven years old. He is…

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Interview: David Niemeijer, Founder & CEO of AssistiveWare

AssistiveWare’s Proloquo2Go is one of the most popular software programs and now apps for people who use AAC — Augmentative and Alternative Communication. They also make the excellent social story app Pictello. David Niemeijer is the founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, and talked with TPGA about the past, present, and future of AssistiveWare and their apps. —- Tell us about AssistiveWare — how it got started, when, and what products you make. AssistiveWare has its roots in 1995 when Giesbert, a friend of mine, had a serious car accident and broke his neck. I developed KeyStrokes, an on-screen keyboard for the Mac so that Giesbert could not only type using a HeadMouse but also access all the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop (see http://www.assistiveware.com/giesbert.php). Later I released KeyStrokes as freeware but got so many requests for improvements that I decided that if I was to make all those improvements I would…

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Hacking Autism’s App Hackathon (Part 2)

Last week Hewlett-Packard hosted an amazing event: a Hacking Autism app hackathon, which showcased innovative and philanthropic synergy at its most brilliant. The all-volunteer event brought together notable autism experts and app developers to focus on a common goal: developing free apps for tablet environments, based on crowd-sourced ideas from the autism community, to help people with autism communicate and contribute. TPGA editor Shannon Des Roches Rosa was invited to participate as a parent and blogger resource based on her autism-specific iPad advocacy work, and found the event so incredibly positive that she is covering it in two separate posts. Part one covered the opening talks by the hackathon’s advisors, and their specific takes regarding autism and technology. Part two is about experiencing the event itself. Innovative technology can make a difference for autistic people. My son Leo excels in ways we (and Apple) never anticipated via iPad/tablet apps, which…

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Hacking Autism’s App Hackathon (Part 1)

Last week Hewlett-Packard hosted an amazing event: a Hacking Autism app hackathon, which showcased innovative and philanthropic synergy at its most brilliant. The all-volunteer event brought together notable autism experts and app developers to focus on a common goal: developing free apps for tablet environments, based on crowd-sourced ideas from the autism community, to help people with autism communicate and contribute. TPGA editor Shannon Rosa was invited to participate as a parent and blogger resource based on her autism-specific iPad advocacy work, and found the event so incredibly positive that she’ll be covering it in two separate posts. Today covers the opening talks by the hackathon’s advisors, their specific takes regarding autism and technology. The apps developed at the App Hackathon will be posted at HackingAutism.org as they are finalized over the next few weeks. Those interested in hosting or getting involved with a hackathon should contact Random Hacks of…

Motivation, Middle School, and iPad Cool

Elaine Park   Our house is frequently really loud, as my seventh grade son, Drew*, races his long fingers at break-neck speed and top volume, up and down the piano, pounding out the Imperial March from Star Wars or some original composition of his own. His fingers are fast and strong, dexterous and coordinated. They are equally skilled at piecing together intricate creations out of his world-class Lego collection. But because of a neurological quirk, this same child can’t tie his own shoes and has difficulty writing with a pencil or pen. He has a lot to say and wants to share it, but the frustration of handwriting often reduces him to despair, and is a frequent problem when it comes to completing language arts assignments. Like many parents of a child on the autism spectrum, I hope this can be resolved by his learning to type. Once Drew has…

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Takeaways From The 10th Annual UCSF Developmental Disabilities Conference

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.thinkingautismguide.com www.squidalicious.com I had the good fortune to speak at at well as attend last week’s UCSF Developmental Disabilities Conference, thanks to the networking wizardry of TPGA contributor Laura Shumaker. It was an experience for which I am profoundly grateful — it exemplified The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism’s mission of bringing together parents, professionals, and adults with autism so we can learn from each other, so our community can become stronger and more effective. Though the conference covered more than autism, I am going to focus on a few autism-related takeaways. iPads and Autism Danielle Samson, MA CCC-SLP and Shannon Des Roches Rosa, MA My talk with crackerjack SLP Danielle Samson opened the conference. Danielle covered autism, iPads, and AAC devices from the professional’s perspective, followed by my perspectives as an autism parent, community member, and former educational software producer. It was on most points…