Sometimes I refer to my iphone as a prosthetic brain. It helps me find out where I am, where I am going, where I saw that guy on TV before, what that song is, and when to do just about everything I need to do.
Turns out that the reasearch supports this idea. Researchers at the Royal Rehabilitation Centre Sydney have found that the use of smartphones and electronic tablets can help brain injured patients remember appointments, names and faces. The study undertaken between 2006 and 2009 showed that people with moderate to severe memory inpairment were able to reduce the number and seriousness of memory failures through the use of a PDA. This research was presented at the Occupational Therapy 24th Annual Conference on the Gold Coast. Belinda Carr, head of Occupational Therapy and chief investigator, said that training in the use of the gadgets is critical to the programme’s success. Participants were given small cue cards that stay with the technology to remember how to input information.
Ms Carr also made the point that the willingness to use the technology was an important factor. Since many people with brain injuries are young men under 25 years, having a iphone doesn’t make them look different to eveyone else and they are more likley to use it.
The upshot is that there is less need for care hours to assist the brain injured person to live independtly and a higher likelihood of the person being able to return to work, with the assistance of technology to help them to remember work tasks they may need to perform.
Ms Carr says that she thinks the use of technology and specifically iphones and ipads to help in a theraputic setting will grow in the future.
This made me think.
What other apps are useful in various areas of rehab? I know of Proloquo2go which is fantastic communication app allowing people who have difficutly speaking to touch a symbol on the screen and ellicit a natural voice sound for a particular word or phrase. There are other apps designed along similar lines such as i converse, i communicate and Locabulary. These apps are very exciting and worth checking out if you are ever likely to be dealing with someone with communication difficulties. As well as this there is an app designed for people with vision impairment called A Special Phone. With this app the user only has to shake the phone until they reach the correct contact. Virtually all feedback is tactile (vibration) or auditory (you hear the name of the contact). It is also useful for people with motor impairment. Of course voice commands are great for motor impairment too.
I even found a weight shift timer app for people with spinal cord injuries, or, I imagine, anyone who needs to time moving their weight. It is called wsTimer.
There are also apps which help to amplify sound which can be great for people who are hearing impaired. There is SoundAMP which increases the volume of surrounding sounds but also allows you to filter out certain parts of the sound. It also keeps 30 seconds of sound in a memory cache so you can just ” hear that last part again”.
I think we have only touched the surface of what smart phones and tablets will be able to achieve for people who are disabled or in rehabilitation, as with just about every other aspect of society. Please let us know if you know of any apps that are of use for rehab. You can add your contribution by clicking on the word “comment” below.
ABC News in Science Apps the way to go with brain injury rehab Danni Cooper http://www.abc.net.au/profiles/content/s2193255.htm?site=science)
Picture “iphone party” courtesy of nobihaya – Flikr