An app has changed the way young people with autism and developmental disabilities in Mississippi can communicate and grow.
The app—called TalkingTiles—is being used in the Mississippi Adolescent Center, which is part of the state’s Department of Mental Health. Many of the center’s patients have autism and are nonverbal, Donna Horton, director of client services for the center, said in an interview. The app is a way for the children to communicate what they want without using words, like choosing what to eat for a snack.
They can use the app to develop a range of skillsets from math and reading to learning about colors and how to recognize signs, Horton said.
The app operates on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and is a Caretiles application from CoCENTRIX, a company that works to find solutions for the health and human services community.
The tiles surface as different pages in the app, said Bill Keyes, senior vice president of marketing and sales for CoCENTRIX. They could be videos, pictures or words and patients can use them to communicate.
The idea is to engage patients with apps that tie into their specific care plan and let’s them engage in their recovery process, Keyes said. It is also individually designed for different types of patients, he said, in order to cater to their needs. Keyes said it’s comparable to Windows 8, but with tiles.
Mississippi is getting ready to expand the app’s reach statewide and plans to implement it with the Department of Mental Health’s ALS and Alzheimer’s unit later this year. With ALS, Horton said, a person’s ability to speak decreases over time. With the app, there are hopes that more people could use it to help them communicate.
A patient’s progress is also tracked so that a patient’s group of caregivers can see their progress and determine the next step, Keyes said.
Another goal of the app is that states can save money on long-term residential care for patients which can be costly. Patients are also given the chance to become more independent. [emphasis added]
In The Autistic Brain, Temple Grandin explains:
Tablets, for example, have a tremendous advantage over plain old computers, even laptops: You don't have to take your eyes off the screen. Usually typing is a two-step process. First you look at the keyboard, then you look at the screen to see what you have typed. That could be one step two many for someone with severe cognitive problems. Before tablets, a therapist would have to mount the keyboard of a desktop computer on a box so that it was right below where the print was appearing on the screen.In tablets, however, the keyboard is actually part of the screen, so eye movement from keyboard to the letter being typed is minimal. Cause and effect have a much clearer correlation. That difference could well be meaningful in terms of allowing people with extreme sensory problems to tell us what it's like to be them.