Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
335-10-27-17 – Kids, Apps, & Food – Project High Five – Cristen Reat & Cathy Foreman www.BridgingApps.org
Insider Tips for Getting the Most from Vocational Rehabilitation – AccessWorld® – October 2017 http://bit.ly/2z6rzBA
RESNA Standards Committee on Air Travel – Meeting Announcement | Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North Americahttp://bit.ly/2zCQuJj
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CRISTEN REAT: Hi, this is Cristen Reat, and I’m the cofounder of BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.
CATHY FOREMAN: Hi, this is Cathy Foreman and I’m a registered dietitian with BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, and this is Assistive Technology Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 335 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on October 27, 2017.
Today I’m joined by Cristen Reat and Cathy Foreman who work over at BridgingApps out of Easter Seals in Houston. We are going to talk about kids, apps, and food: a project called High Five designed to help kids use technology to eat more healthily. We also have a story from our friends at RESNA about a meeting to talk about accessible air travel for people with disabilities.
We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line at 317-721-7124.
I’m going to guess that for a lot of our audience, the term vocational rehabilitation services is not new. If it is, that’s an agency that operates at the state level and assist people with disabilities to get jobs. In Access World Magazine, there is a great blog post from Lee Hoffman and Joe Striche. It’s a reprint from an earlier article. It’s called “Insider Tips for Getting the Most from Vocational Rehabilitation.” I thought it was interesting because it goes through the entire process of the rehab process to explain what happens and gives you a bunch of good tips about how to make sure that you get the most out of it. Just a teaser: a couple of those are deadlines can be very important. If your VR counselor asks you to get documentation by a certain date, have it prior to that date. Always follow up on request to your VR counselor. And do the necessary research for the job that interest you and utilize all your resources. There is more. I’m not going to read all them to you. What I will do is put a link in our show notes to the entire post so you can read these insider tips for getting the most from vocational rehabilitation. Check our show notes.
Are you a person with a disability who has experience accessibility issues while traveling, or are you interested in how accessibility might impact people with disabilities? RESNA has developed a standards committee on air travel. They’re going to have their first meeting in Washington DC on November 7 at the Paralyzed Veterans of America office at 801 18th Street northwest. However, you don’t have to be in Washington DC to participate in that. They are going to offer virtual beating call-in information for people who want to participate. They are trying to get participation from airline industry experts, people with disabilities, disability organizations, mobility device manufacturers, research and development folks, everybody who is interested in this topic. While some participants are voting members, meetings are open to everyone to provide input.
I’ll pop a link in the show notes to the RESNA.org website where you can learn more about this meeting, out to get signed up, for more information, and learn about the virtual call and in case you don’t happen to be in Washington DC on November 7. Check our show notes.
We have had an ongoing relationship with an organization out of Easter Seals Houston called BridgingApps that does all kinds of great stuff. If you’ve listened to more than a couple episodes of assistive technology update, you have heard the voice of folks from BridgingApps talking about apps. That is their focus.
I was excited when I learned about a new thing that they have done recently having to do with kids with disabilities and apps and food. I thought I like all those things so maybe we should do an interview on that. So I reached out to my friend Cristen Reat who is the cofounder at BridgingApps. That’s a program out of Easter Seals Houston. She has introduced me to one of her friends and colleagues named Cathy Foreman who is a registered dietitian working on this program as well. I’m so excited to have these lovely ladies are joining us from Houston.
Cristen, Cathy, how are you?
CRISTEN REAT: Hey, Wade. Doing great.
CATHY FOREMAN: Doing great. Thanks for having us.
WADE WINGLER: Before we jump into the interview, we are a few weeks post-Hurricane Harvey. How are you doing in Houston?
CATHY FOREMAN: We are in it for the long haul. We are stable now, lots of assistance here in our case management department. We are really busy. Easter Seals in general, Easter Seals Houston serves about 10,000 families. I’m sure that’s already jumped and I’m sure we are going to be working well into the next year, especially with housing. We are doing really well. Our building did not flood and we are grateful for that.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. I’m glad you are okay and we are grateful for the work you’re doing down there. We know that folks with disabilities have specific needs when natural disasters happen, and we’re glad you’re there.
Cristen, you and I have known each other for a long while, and Cathy and I are just getting to know each other. We are going to do more of that today. Cristen, I know you have a lot of things going on with BridgingApps. Can you start by telling folks what BridgingApps is and your role and what’s new? Cathy, I’ll come back around and ask you to do the same thing when we start talking about project High Five.
CRISTEN REAT: BridgingApps is both a website called BridgingApps.org, and also an in-person program. It basically focused on technology using mostly mobile devices and apps with people of all ages who have disabilities. We started out as a parent support group working with therapist. We are trying to figure out in 2010 which apps were helpful for helping our young children at the time to develop skills and reach goals and enhance their lives in different ways.
We became part of Easter Seals in 2011 so we are still a completely separate website. But also the in person portion of the program, we have an assisted technology lab in Houston. We have three in the area that has traditional assistive technology as well as mobile devices and apps. My younger son has a disability; he is now 14. He has Down Syndrome, so he has a cognitive disability and a visual impairment, a lot of sensory issues. I’ve been amazed how using mobile devices has really changed his life for the better. My passion is showing that with other people.
Even though we started out with young kids, if you go to BridgingApps.org, we have a database of about 3,300 apps for iOS and Android that focus on apps of all kinds. Some are designed specifically for special needs; some are what we call regular mainstream apps. Professionals, special ed teachers, assistive technology professionals, my colleague here, Cathy, a registered nutritionist and dietitian, all use mobile devices. We have people assisting apps and sharing that information.
We invite people to come to BridgingApps.org. We are always trying to make it better. We have some wonderful feedback from your listeners at Assistive Technology Update for making the website more accessible. We have recently done some updates but would love to see what you think to make it friendlier for screen readers. We have recently added a category in our search tool for voiceover. Lots of people have asked which apps are compatible with voiceover. Not all of our reviewers are blind or visually impaired, so not everyone knows how to use voiceover. But we did add a category, so we are eager to see what you all think about that. We also added the ability to share apps list. If you have favorite apps – I have ever apps. I love sharing them. You can share them and make a list on BridgingApps.org and share them with people.
That’s what’s new. A lot of projects. I was going to mention one of my favorite apps that’s out that we’ve used in hospitals, nursing homes, loud noisy places. It’s called Flip Writer AAC. It’s an app that does the text to speech and speech to text. It was designed for two people to have communication, and one may be deaf or hard of hearing. It’s one of our favorites. We reviewed it recently and would love for you to check it out.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. It sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff going on. I know you are busy in general and I’m particularly happy to hear about the screen reader accessibility stuff. I know that’s important and I’m glad you are embracing that.
CRISTEN REAT: We think it has definitely improved and are always trying to work. We would love feedback on that. Just know that whenever we are doing software updates and working with our developers, we’re trying to make it as successful as possible. We are not 100 percent, but we are working on it.
WADE WINGLER: Very cool. Cathy, you and I are just getting to know each other. Tell me a little bit about your day job, your regular job, and how and why you became interested in assistive technology.
CATHY FOREMAN: The past few years, I was a dietitian with a county-based ECI program, Early Child Intervention. Through that experience, working with families, I gained a lot of insight on feeding issues, growth issues, medical issues with kids with special needs. During that time, personally, my husband had a stroke, so at the home front I became an instant caregiver. He has a right-brain injury and some cognitive and physical disability that we have found straightaway to – this happened right when the iPhone was getting on the market. It became what he calls now his second brain. The ability to use the iPhone, iPad, and various apps has really helped him and helped me because I help him access things out in the world that he wouldn’t have been able to. It helps him with his memory issues, helps them stay engaged with different various podcast. He likes to listen to podcasts and it helps them with reading. He has problems with reading now. He was a scientist and still want to stay engaged in that world, so when he can listen to things, it feeds that important part of what made him who he was before his stroke.
WADE WINGLER: We know he will listen to this episode. Give him a shout out really quick.
CATHY FOREMAN: Hey Lincoln, love you.
WADE WINGLER: There you go. Talk to me a little bit about project High Five. What is it and where did the idea come from?
CATHY FOREMAN: We were very lucky. We got some grant money from Amerigroup Foundation and had a task set out for us that, in my field, was quite exciting because we had the ability to design a program to increase fruit and vegetable intake of kids with special needs. That’s our outcome. This summer, we implemented the program that we designed. Project High Five, we decided on the name because he wanted to focus on kids having positive interaction with food and positive messages: “Five” coming from the goal of five fruits and vegetables, and “High Five” part, you know, praising and being positive and having excitement about food.
We also decided a way to engage kids in this project would be not just using an app but using mobile devices and apps to be part of a real-life experience. That real-life experience we put into the program was hands-on cooking. We designed a hands-on cooking class that had some apps that help engage kids and make it more accessible to them. They also can carry the information and those kills and what they learned home to their parents.
WADE WINGLER: Cathy, what aged kids are we talking about for this particular camp experience?
CATHY FOREMAN: The ages range from about six years old through 14 with various special needs.
WADE WINGLER: I have a five and six-year-old at home and they are becoming interested in cooking and during that stuff. That resonates with me and I understand the interest starting at that age.
Tell me about the program. Tell me about the apps and food and what it looked like during camp.
CATHY FOREMAN: We decided to approach this from an angle – let’s just back up a little bit. Kids with special needs, some of them have pictures related to food. They can be wide ranging from sensory issues with the feel of food in the mouth; it could be they don’t eat from the mouth, they have food through a tube; it might be specific food allergies; it could be a medical issue related to certain foods they can and cannot eat; diabetes, all those things. Coming from that as a background, we wanted to make sure – is some kids weren’t able to communicate. What is to make sure that even if they didn’t eat by mouth – and many of them did it by mouth – that they could be included in this project.
Doing a hands-on cooking class, we discovered and explored foods through all five senses with excitement and engaging with lots of laughter and fun. If we were cutting up in a red bell pepper, we were in all of its beautiful little color. We wondered if it was hot or not hot. We posed the question and talk about the sound it made when we cut it, the crispness. Then we put it in a recipe and tasted it later. That interaction with food, some of them can’t handle the food in front of them. That’s new. The smell of it is something that makes them retch or gag. We had quite a task at hand but were able to approach this using some feeding therapy techniques, very gentle once, never asking a yes or no question, playing things up, also just encouraging them to be part of this recipe that we would make.
We made two different recipes. We made a roasted curry chickpea dish that was a nice snack that was crispy and country. It was a new food for almost every single child which is a big deal. It had a sensory explosion of that curry spice on there, and the smell in the room was wonderful as we were doing it. The other recipe was a black bean corn salsa that was sweet and crunchy and beautiful in colors. It had reds and greens and yellow. That crispy had a chip that was served with it, that was a familiar food. That was under the feeding technique we put into it. One of those recipes we recruited all the ingredients and put them in bags for the kids to take home that could then make again in their home environment with the families.
That coordinated with an app called Magnus cards, a task analysis app that has a beautiful set of what are called cards. Life skills are part of this app where they can learn about brushing teeth or sitting at a table or using an ATM if they are transitioning out of home. The card decks in this app are wide-ranging and premade. You can also make your own custom decks. We had a deck for all the recipes we use in the class. We use them in the class and then parents could put the app on their phones at home and use this in the kitchen for the kids at home. It is picture-based, easy to slide with your finger to the next page. There is also an option where you can touch the text and the ghost audio and reads text to speech from each step in the recipe. That’s one example of an app we use in the program which we think is a wonderfully well-designed, clean, very usable, accessible app.
WADE WINGLER: That’s a bunch of amazing stuff. The first thing I have to say is I’m not sure I ever had a red bell pepper described in such a way that made me want to go eat one right now. I love those things.
CATHY FOREMAN: You go do that.
WADE WINGLER: That is so good. The Magnus Cards app, did you say whether that is a free or paid app?
CATHY FOREMAN: It is a free app. It comes out of Canada. It was designed by a sister whose brother is autistic. It has been utilized in the Toronto zoo, different public avenues for accessing transportation, all different things. We saw a great opportunity when we discovered this app that it had a use in the kitchen as well and wanted to grab it and put it right into the program.
WADE WINGLER: I’m fascinated that you are marrying the combination of kids with disabilities and technology and better nutritional habits and awareness. I think that’s amazing. It seems to make sense to me that, during the camp, they had a pretty rich experience. You told me that there are activities that have gone on since camp that may also involve technology. You don’t just want kids eating vegetables for one day. You are trying to develop awareness and a habit that goes on. What does that look like post-camp, and how has technology been part of that?
CATHY FOREMAN: During camp and transitioning to post-camp, we formed a private Facebook group for parents that they can join if they choose to where we then put professional content, different nutrition related topics that have to do with children with special needs, lots of fun recipes. Jamie Oliver is a great example of an app he called Jamie Oliver’s recipes. His story connects families really well with having a child with special needs. He has dyslexia. It is an app we have reviewed on our website. There are some links we put in our review where he discusses his experiences having dyslexia. It is a really powerful story. He’s very upbeat, positive. The way he talks about food is wonderful. He has really nice short how-to videos. He calls them food tubes. That was a fun app. Another way we used it is he has a song and video he has come out with called food revolution that he created with Ed Sheeran that we played for older kids in the class. A link to that is also in one of the app reviews. That’s an example of an app we use to connect kids and families during and after the program.
Another few apps we use, one is called Cooking Fun for Kids. That is an app that has different game content and it. It might have a puzzle with food in it, something that kids can draw that is food related that is guided through this app. It has some recipes as well, very cute, cartoony, fun recipes. It’s a great app. We’ve reviewed that on our BridgingApps website as well.
One of the app that got away from tracking your intake called Veg Out. That is out of an organization in Houston called Recipes for Success which has a great angle on increasing your vegetable intake through just trying various different vegetables. Each month in this app, you see how many vegetables you try. Not how many you eat but how many you try. You can use this app and form groups for support and fun and competitions, whether or not you try 30 vegetables in that timeframe, a rutabaga, red bell pepper, something ordinary like a carrot. They all count but it encourages trying something new.
WADE WINGLER: That is fascinating and I’m making a note to have my wife listen to this episode so that my five and six-year-olds might try some more vegetables. We are getting close on time for the rest of the interview. I would love to know what families are saying about this. If people wanted to try something like this on their own, what advice would you have them?
CATHY FOREMAN: I think my advice with them would be for them to have fun. There is no good or bad food. Encourage exploration and discovery together. It might be a new food for a parent and the child. Involve them in the kitchen at any level you can. If you have to bring food to the floor so a child with a disability can do some of the prep, do it. You don’t have to have people stand up and do the work at the counter. You can go to the kitchen table. There are many ways you can approach cooking with kids. The bottom line is to keep it fun, stress-free, noncoercive. Whether or not a child tastes, touches, smells, interacts with the food are all baby steps on the way to consuming a new fruit or vegetable.
Comments and feedback we got, a lot of it was wonderful. Some of the things were “Yes! My son has a very limited diet, but this was an incentive to get him engaged in the kitchen and try some new food.” Another one, somebody said they want to include their child and more food prep and this was a great way on how to do that. Others said they were shocked that their child would try something like this. A lot of it was the approach itself. That was the basic overview. Some said, “Oh, my child didn’t like the recipe, but he made it with me anyway.” That is okay also. As a positive thing, having a positive experience with food, shipping nice healthy behavior and attitude about food.
WADE WINGLER: If people want to keep track of what you’re doing with this project or wanted to reach out to you to learn more, what kind of contact information would you like to share?
CRISTEN REAT: I think the best way is to go to BridgingApps.org. There are tabs on the side where you can give feedback, submit a question. Somebody is monitoring that constantly and we would be happy to respond or share. I think that’s the best way. We are both on Twitter and Facebook. If you join the BridgingApps Facebook page, you can see a lot of information there. We get messages from people all different ways, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, and through the website.
WADE WINGLER: Cristen Reat is the cofounder of BridgingApps, and Cathy Foreman is a registered dietitian. Today we talked about kids, apps, and food with Project High Five. Thanks a lot for being on the show.
CATHY FOREMAN: Thank you.
CRISTEN REAT: Thank you, Wade.
WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
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