Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, October 20 – Friday, October 24

Human Interest:
To Siri, with love (The New York Times)
For most people, Siri, Apple’s ”intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is merely a momentary diversion. But for the author’s son, who has autism, it’s more. His practice conversation with Siri is translating into more facility with actual humans. A recent conversation with him was back and forth, and it followed a logical trajectory. That, for most of her son’s 13 years of existence, has not been the case.

Employment:
Rehab counselor talks advantages of disabled employees (San Angelo LIVE!) (San Angelo, TX)
At a recent luncheon at the Chamber of Commerce in San Angelo, TX, counselors from the local Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services (DARS) spoke to area businesspersons about hiring and accommodating employees with a disability, as part of Disability Awareness Month. The counselors demonstrated assistive technology that helps accommodate workers with disabilities including a computer keyboard for individuals with the use of only one hand and devices to help workers with hearing impairments.

Rehabilitation:
For children with autism, opening a door to dental care (The New York Times)
A pediatric dentist in suburban Houston, TX, favors a therapeutic approach over sedation and immobilization of patients with autism, who are often bewildered by bright lights and noisy equipment. A recent patient came for weekly visits prior to her appointment to help her learn to be cooperative, step by step and with lots of breaks. Bribery helped. If she sat calmly for 10 seconds, her reward was listening to a Beyoncé song on an iPod. This approach resulted in the patient calmly sitting through an entire cleaning.

Understanding the causes of dyslexia for effective intervention (Edutopia.org/Literacy blog)
Twenty-first century research on the underlying basis of dyslexia has pointed to a primary problem with the phonological processing of speech sounds. Early research identified problems with phonological awareness, or the ability to segment words into the component speech sounds. This, in turn, affects the development of brain networks that enable a student to link a speech sound to the written letter. Based on this research, reading interventions for dyslexia should combine auditory perceptual training and memory for speech sounds with exercises that require relating speech sounds to the written letter.

Procedure on paralyzed man stirs hope and caution (The New York Times)
A Polish man who was paralyzed from the chest down after a knife attack several years ago is now able to get around using a walker and has recovered some sensation in his legs after receiving a novel nerve-generation treatment. The therapy involved injections of cultured cells at the site of the injury and tissue grafts. The medical team that developed the therapy cautions that its effectiveness would have to be confirmed in a larger group of patients with similar types of spinal injury.

Research:
A new tune: There is intonation in sign language too (Science Daily)
Like the intonation of individual spoken languages, sign languages also have their unique “sound” and, as with spoken languages, the intonation of one community’s language is different from that of another community, according to a new study conducted at the University of Haifa, Israel, and Gallaudet University. In sign language, these intonational patterns are transmitted not by the vocal cords, but by a systematic set of facial expressions and head positions. Comparing Israeli and American Sign Languages, the researchers found that a set of fixed facial expressions and head movements typically accompany different kinds of sentences in each sign language. Some of these are the same in the two languages, but some are noticeably and systematically different. The study shows that certain properties are universally shared across languages regardless of the physical channel through which they are conveyed.

Technology:
MotionSavvy UNI sign language interpreter gives a voice to the Deaf and hard of hearing (Medgadget)
The sign language interpreter UNI consists of three parts: a tablet computer, a specially designed smart case, and a mobile app. The smart case contains hardware including two cameras to track the location of both the user’s hands and fingers. The app, which is powered by the tablet, translates the hand and finger movements of sign language into audible speech or text displayed on the screen. The app in turn can also translate spoken word into written text for the Deaf person to read. The article includes a video demonstrating the UNI.

Power Wheels offer lift for kids with special needs (Disability Scoop)
Toddlers with disabilities and their parents recently gathered in Columbus, OH, along with therapists, researchers, toy-company executives, and disability professionals to adapt toy cars as part of a workshop presented by Go Baby Go. Participants rewired the cars to add on/off switches and large-button steering wheels that the toddlers could touch to make the cars go. They used PVC pipes and pool toys such as foam kickboards and water noodles to support the children. Straps with Velcro and buckles held the kids in place as they circled a gymnasium race course in the cars. The Go Baby Go project was founded by a pediatric researcher at the University of Delaware who sought to create a modification that families of children with disabilities could afford and do on their own.

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