Digital PEC System/ clock
My nascent proposal is to design a Wi-Fi enabled digital clock/interface that can display a clock with a chosen PECs (Picture Exchange Communication system) picture to display an activity chosen, by the supported person. The whole venture concept is to bring digital technologies into the hands of those people currently being under represented in the market place.
A tablet with the choices offered (on 10″ digital tablet) can be used by the supported client to select an activity preference, this choice could be uploaded to the wall located digital interfaced clock. This could also be done using QR codes on the back of the PEC card scanned via phone. Data of the choices would be stored on the tablet as part of the app.
Already present in the market place are very simple, non-Wi-Fi connected, clock devices, available for dementia sufferers, as a way of reminding them of time, via large text and standard clock faces. These devices can been shown to ease confusion and the associated anxiety, through the dementia peregrination. This shows, hopefully, that there is a place for digitising certain indication devices and that this can be a progressive aid for supported living.The Clocks retail around £40 each which is reflected in the fact they are very basic and offer very little interaction.
I work part time for Mencap one of the UK’s largest charities that work with people that are mentally handicapped. One of our daily communication devices is the Picture Exchange Communication system (PECs). The care worker uses this picture based system to offer options (and for other communications) for the person we support (PWS). One of the duties, of a carer, is to ask the PWS to choose an activity to be carried out at times throughout the day. When the PWS has made a choice this pic is then stuck to a clock (using Velcro) at a 15 minute interval. This is a great tool for the carers and the PWS because it helps regulate activities to a given time. People with learning disabilities, Autism or mentally handicapped prefer to know what activities are happening in a structure and set manner. This helps reduce anxiety and sensory loads for the people being supported. As the minute hand comes to the middle of the picture (PECs) the PWS will be mentally prepared for the upcoming activity.
However one of the downfalls of the current manual system is that the picture cards become tattered and worn, the Velcro can come apart, the clocks are crudely handmade and there is no audible warning or easy record of what activities have been carried out throughout the day. Already present on the market is a digital i-store authorised PEC app, that speaks out the name of the selected picture and this retails at around £79 (apple i-store,2017).
By digitising the process, the interfaces can be designed to be as user friendly and as familiar existing PECs systems but with the added features of recording activities, warnings of upcoming times, colour changes and the ability to record data to monitor patterns. This is particularly useful as around 1 in 3 people (32%) who have a mild to moderate learning disability also have epilepsy. The more severe the learning disability, the more likely that the person will also have epilepsy ( epilepsy society, 2017). Being able to see behaviour patterns based on activity choices could lead to a better understanding of pre-seizure indicators.
It is estimated that in England in 2011 1,191,000 people have a learning disability. This includes 905,000 adults aged 18+ (530,000 men and 375,000 women) (Source: People with Learning Disabilities in England 2011, Mental Health Foundation.).Around 1% of the UK population has autism spectrum condition. The need for digital development is evident when one carries out simple searched for likely devices that may help and progress digital communications for people with learning disabilities
What is PECS
Taken from the official UK PECs website the text below best describes what a Picture Exchange Communication system is and what it can be used for:
“PECS was developed in 1985 as a unique augmentative/alternative communication intervention package for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disabilities. First used at the Delaware Autistic Program, PECS has received worldwide recognition for focusing on the initiation component of communication. PECS does not require complex or expensive materials. It was created with families, educators, and resident care providers in mind, so is readily used in a range of settings.”(https://www.magpieslp.com/pecs-avaz, 2017)
PECS begins by teaching an individual, or indeed a group, to give a picture of a desired item or action to a communicative partner, who then “honors” the exchange as a request, maybe putting that action onto a routines board or showing a user to that chosen object. The technique then goes on to teach the concept of distinction of pictures and how to put them together in sentences. In the more advanced phases, individuals are taught to answer questions and to comment.
The digitisation of the process is currently under explored and by introducing amenable technologies such as the PECs clock I hope to improve the quality of people live, whilst being inclusive by bringing unrealised users into the digital world.
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