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Empowering Individuals With Developmental Disabilities Through Technology

Empowering Individuals With Developmental Disabilities Through Technology












[Pictured:  Lonzo is working on sending an e-mail to his behavior intervention specialist to ask when she will be visiting him next.]

Source:  Autism Spectrum News
By:  Vivian Attanasio BCBA and John Lampen RBT
Services for the UnderServed


Many of us remember a time when paper and pencil were the only way of recording information and encyclopedias and journals were located in a library for research and review. Once the internet was invented our lives changed in many ways. We had access to an infinite amount of information across a never ending variety of topics. We were soon able to send a note through email in real time and look up old friends using social media.

Nowadays our personal lives are very public and employers use social media to determine a possible employee’s character by the information that is contained on his/her Facebook page. For some individuals with disabilities, the technological revolution passed them by. Many of our individuals were dependent on staff making telephone calls for them or communicating information about them to their family members on their behalf. Individuals with developmental disabilities were not exposed to the world of technology, possibly because professionals did not believe these were functional skills for them to learn.

At Services for the UnderServed, individuals are learning to access information on the internet based on their interests, write emails as a way to stay in touch with friends, family and professionals as well as developing a Facebook page to share important events in their lives with friends and family. They are also learning to take pictures with their cell phones and send text messages. This has opened up so many opportunities for them and they are so excited to be using technology like their contemporaries.

Services for the UnderServed was awarded a Transition to Independence BIP grant by the Department of Health in August 2014. As a part of that initiative, objectives were developed to teach individuals how to operate laptops, desktop computers and/or tablets. This included turning it on, entering a password and manipulating a mouse or mouse pad. Once the individual mastered these steps independently, they were instructed on the purposes for the icons located on the opening page.

Many of the individuals were confused by the idea of the internet, specifically Google search. They were fascinated by the implication that all of the answers to their questions could be answered by the “click of a mouse.” Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), developed task analyses (small steps of a larger task) for the registered behavior technicians to teach the individuals how to access Google search, create an email and design a Facebook page. Data were collected to determine mastery for each step in the process and additional prompts were added to ensure skill acquisition when needed. The individuals are now able to take a picture with their cell phones, text it to a friend and upload it to their Facebook page. They are able to advocate for themselves and ask questions to their service providers through email without having to wait for their next visit to the residence.

They are able to surf the net to learn more about their areas of interests, get the bus or train schedule or the address for a new restaurant that they want to try out. They are also able to purchase items from stores and concert tickets using the internet.

Providing exposure and instruction for technology to our individuals with developmental disabilities has opened up many social opportunities and motivated them to reach beyond their comfort zone to connect with old friends while maintaining relationships with new friends. All professionals should consider adding technology objectives to ISPs for individuals to learn how to stay virtually connected to others while benefiting from the speed and ease of the internet in their daily lives.

John Lampen is a Registered Behavior Technician and Vivian Attanasio, BCBA, is Director of BIP, at Services for the UnderServed Inc. For more information, contact Vivian Attanasio at [email protected] or visit www.sus.org.



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