The Connected Child: Using Technology to Rise Above Disabilities
London was born with a rare genetic condition, but with the help of everyday consumer technologies - from tablets, smart phones, apps and social media - she's learning new skills at a rapid rate. An experimental concept called The Connected Child enables London's caregivers to ensure that they're all on the same page with everything that she does, tracking her learning approaches to see what works and what doesn't.
At nine years old, London is developmentally similar to a three-year-old. Tetrasomy 18p is so rare that there hasn't been enough research to determine the best approaches to help her learn basic academic and independent living skills. The Connected Child is an experimental program using video models, a blog, Facebook and a web app that keeps each caregiver - from her parents, teachers, therapists and even her school principal - in the loop on her progress.
"The technology that we use is a key to her success," says Lee, London's father.
Along with London's teachers, Lee creates a video model filmed from his phone that shows London what she's supposed to do in order to achieve a specific learning goal. The video model is then viewed by London at her leisure or can be used in a learning session.
In addition, Lee is working on a web app, available on most smart phones, which will give London’s caregivers immediate access the video models, progress postings, and assessment tools.
This technology is so effective because London's caregivers are using the same research-based methods that are often applied for children with disabilities - and at the same time - they're taking them to a platform that's fun and engaging for kids. Today, London is learning new skills beyond her developmental age, in a shorter amount of time. Her school system has recognized her success, even implementing a new program called 'BYLD: Bring Your Own Learning Device' that is inspired by this technology-based approach.
The Connected Child concept can be used by parents of children with disabilities to encourage a fun and stimulating learning environment, with these four basic components:
Tablets – Interactive learning has helped to pique London's interest in each goal, accelerating her progress. London uses her tablet first thing in the morning to get into learning mode, and throughout the day as she completes each exercise.
Smartphones – Each of London's videos are filmed on a smartphone from AT&T. Video models are a proven method to accelerate skill acquisition for children with special needs, and they're easy to share with caregivers on a variety of platforms like phones, tablets and computers.
High-speed internet – Instantly upload videos and post them on blogs or Facebook accounts, which are free and easy to set up. Social media (like Facebook pages) encourages caregivers to interact, share a child's progress, and approach the learning process with confidence and enthusiasm.
Apps – Not only do AT&T devices provide access to thousands of apps that tie into your child's educational goals, the company also offers the AT&T Developer Program where app developers can tap into resources to allow them to create custom applications to meet their needs.
A: Morning starts out about 5:50. I'll go get London dressed, come downstairs and have breakfast, and it gives her time to work with the tablet. I'll take the opportunity it's probably our most productive time during the day for me to really start engaging her in skills.
B: London, in her development in her therapies used traditional types of equipment. She wore AFO's, which are Ankle Foot Orthotics for years. She had a pediatric walker that helped her initially to learn to walk. The condition that she has is so unusual and the skill set is so scattered that it's hard to know what's feasible and what's not. Once thing that you would think would be easy is hard. Something you think would be hard is easy. There's no rhyme or reason to it. And, it's so rare there really aren't enough people who have had the research done for us to know what we're dealing with. So, every day is a new day.
C: The Connected Child is a concept of making sure that London's caregivers that she works with are on the same page with everything that she does. The technology that we use is the key to her success. So, the first thing we do is use my sign and her teacher to create a video model that shows London how she's suppose to produce the goal, you know, what are the outcomes. So, the second thing that we do is we generalize the goal with an app. The other component is the blog. With that the intent is to record observations, best practices and approaches, and so her her small team of caregivers contribute to that. And that's tied to Facebook so there's immediate awareness of how she's doing. The final piece is a web app. A web app can be used on any web enabled phone. She can sign a new teacher or a new therapist. I can say, "Go to this app." They're immediately up to date on how to work with her.
B: One of the nicest benefits of using this type of technology is the fact that we can be consistent. Whether it's what she's doing at school, whether it's what's she's doing at home or here in the clinic we can use the same material.
C: One reason I think that the technology is so effective is we're using the same methods in education that are research based, we've used them for years, they work with children with disabilities, but we're just presenting them on a different platform that's more interactive, that kids think are fun and don't realize that they're work.
B: It's made a huge difference in our lives, absolutely in London's life because here she is at the cutting edge of technology and the school system recognizes that, sees her progress, and they're as proud of it as we are. It's just amazing.