Technology for education includes that which supports personal growth and independence. This would include, but is not limited to anything that supports:
- emotional growth
- social integration
- personal satisfaction
Pinky and I begin our look at technology for education with Stephen diFillipo, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Cecile College who tells us about EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING and LiveScribe© recording technology.
Then we meet with Minna Levine, President of Symtrend to discuss a web-based, electronic prompt and diary enabling parents, teachers and individuals on the spectrum to monitor, measure and modify behaviorporting students in higher education.
A LOOK AT EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
THE WIKIPEDIA DEFINES EXECUTIVE FUNCTION AS AN UMBRELLA TERM FOR COGNITIVE PROCESSESTHAT REGULATE, CONTROL, AND MANAGE OTHER COGNITIVE PROCESSES SUCH AS PLANNING, WORKING, MEMORY, ATTENTION, PROBLEM SOLVING, VERBAL REASONING, INHIBITION, MENTAL FLEXIBILITY, MULTI-TASKING, AND INITIATION AND MONITORING OF ACTIONS.
(THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION COURTESY OF THE National Center For Learning Disabilities)
Why is Executive Function important?
- It is responsible for the ability to plan, organize, strategize, pay attention to and remember details, and manage time
- Difficulty with executive functionmakes it more difficult to perform these functions well. You may also show a weakness with working memory, an important tool in guiding your actions.
- As with other learning disabilities, problems with executive function can run in families. It can be seen at any age, but it tends to become more apparent as children move through the early elementary grades. This is when the demands of completing schoolwork independently can trigger signs of a problem with executive function.
- The brain continues to mature and develop connections well into adulthood. A person's executive function abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful. As a rule, it helps to give direct instruction, frequent reassurance, and explicit feedback
How Does It Affect Learning?
Executive function allows us to:
- Keep track of time and finish work on time
- Keep track of more than one thing at once
- Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
- Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
- Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
- Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
- Engage in group dynamics
- Wait to speak until we're called on
What Are Some Strategies to Help?
There are many effective strategies to help with executive function challenges.
- Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
- Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
- Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
- Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
- Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
- Managing Time
- Create checklists and "to do" lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
- Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
- Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
- Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
- Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
- Managing Space and Materials
- Organize work space.
- Minimize clutter.
- Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
- Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
- Managing Work
- Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student's checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
- Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
A LOOK AT TECHNOLOGY SUPPORTING EXECUTIVE FUNCTION
- Stephen diFillipo, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Cecile College is a strong advocate for the use of technology to support students in higher education. Although not on the autism spectrum, his daughter Nicole has a loss of executive function. Her experiences using the Live Scribe pen to compensate for her lossis informative. In this interview, we discuss the need for technology supporting students in higher education.
- Next, Pinky and I interview Minna Levine, psychologist, occupational therapist and President of Symtrend
a web-based electronic prompt and diary enabling parents, teachers and individuals on the spectrum to monitor, measure and modify behavior.
Minna’s research with teens and children on the autism spectrum has been funded by the NIMH since 2005, including her work with Gary Mesibov at Division TEACCH at UNC/Chapel Hill, Julie Kientz at University of Washington and Ron Calvanio of Harvard Medical School, which resulted in the development of the Symtrend software we'll be discussing today.
We discuss tracking trends and how cell phone technology can prompt and track contextual useful clues in assessing educational settings, therapeutic regimes and personal growth
- You describe the SymTrend technology as an electronic personal support and electronic diary system for individuals and professionals.
- What we mean by that it is an app to record about and monitor events, behaviors, feelings, physical symptoms, and the context in which these things occur and to get guidance about what to do. The system is used for recording, charting, evaluating the impact of treatments, and receiving guidance or learning about strategies to improve skills.
- What is the value of maintaining a personal electronic support or diary?
- If a parent wants to figure out why their child can’t sleep or won’t eat some foods, or if a job coach wants the person on the job to follow particular steps to complete a job and double check his work, or if an anxious person wants to understand what makes him anxious, each can use one of our apps to record the information, upload the information to our website, view tables and graphs that show progress mastering a skill, progress reducing anxiety, and/or show what events or environments are likely to trigger problems.
- So your system helps with personal management?
- (tracking emotional regulation and behaviors and getting guidance for life skills) or skill monitoring and intervention evaluation by parents and professionals. In addition, the SymTrend website includes explanations for professionals about how to use self-monitoring as part of care.
- What are some of the issues people would want this system to help them with?
- The system has a library of applications for many types of challenges: autism, Aspergers, ADHD, developmental delays, anxiety, depression, pain, sleeping problems, challenging behaviors, job coaching and neurological issues. But the system allows the SymTrend help staff or professionals to create customized apps for any issues.
- Is this technology restricted to use with specific interventions?
- No. We have applications that can be used by practitioners of many types of interventions. We have special applications to be used as part of Applied Behavior Analysis interventions to record responses to trials that are part of discrete trial training and for interval recording, and task analyses. We have multiple applications for occupational therapists to record about sensory sensitivities or sensory seeking and motor and activities of daily living skills. We have a diary that has been used by a professional who recorded about FloorTime skill levels. We have applications that have been used as part of cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy for anxiety, depression, and self-injury.
- I have always objected to the exclusive use of static assessment tools because they don’t provide a meaningful picture of student progress. However, I have always been a strong proponent for the use of video portfolios because they provide objective evidence of achievement in the context of real-life situations as well as longitudinal tracking of growth.
- Was that the rationale behind development of your product?
- We heard many families saying that they wished they could figure out why their children behaved as they did – what triggered their meltdowns and why limited their ability to succeed. They complained that teachers came to IEP meetings with charts and data to disprove what parents were reporting and parents wanted to have charts to demonstrate that what they were experiencing at home was valid. Governments, insurance companies, schools and families want data about the effectiveness of strategies and treatments. All of these issues point to the need of easy-to-collect data. Families have tried paper data entry, but the papers get lost and it is hard to do. In this age of apps on your phone, when you always have your phone with you, something that makes it easy to answer a couple of questions in-the-moment makes that data collection easier.
- I can see the value of tracking behavior. But how does it function as a personal management aid for teens and adults?
- A professional working with the teen or adult would develop a plan for self-monitoring and presenting timely reminders, strategies. They would decide when each of these parts of the system would be done – how frequently the person will pause and think about how they are feeling in terms of mood, stress, and energy, what they’ve done so far that day, and what is left to do. They will decide if and when a text message or an alarm on their phone should be programmed to remind them of what to do. Then the professional, with a special professional account on our system, will customize the SymTrend application for that student. It takes as little time as about a half hour with an average number of prompts, checklists, and questions and up to a couple of hours for extensive customization of guidance material. [I can show the same application I showed you with the guidance in response to anxiety] The individual user then would use the custom app one or more times/day and weekly would print out a report that displays all the responses. The professional and individual would review the entries together and come up with ideas for changing a routine, something in the environment, or would set up some education of new strategies. We also sometimes have the professional and personal users record at the same time and plot both perspectives together. The two can then talk about why the two perspectives are different if they are.
PLEASE RETURN FOR FURTHER INSTALLMENTS EXPLORING
THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON EDUCATION AND OTHER ASPECTS OF THE AUTISM COMMUNITY