Engaging Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities in the Development of Self-Management Tools Through Participatory Design

Co-Authors: Tom Keating and Tobias Rickard

Why Participatory Design?

Cognitopia develops accessible software for people with cognitive disabilities to self-manage everyday activities using web-based tools that foster independence, while also enhancing support received from families, teachers, and adult service providers. In the early 2000’s, when I first began teaching in a community-based transition program, I had the opportunity to work with Cognitopia’s founder, Tom Keating, on the development of Picture PlannerTM, a visual calendaring application. Students and teachers from that transition program played an important role in shaping the development of Picture PlannerTM, and these experiences led us to the inescapable understanding that the entire development process needs to include input from the individuals who will be using the product. Continue reading

Five Tips for Creating an Effective Routine

Within the Cognitopia Platform for Self-Determination a routine is a sequence of steps consisting of actions that lead to the accomplishment of work assignments, activities of daily living, social skills, recreational activities, or any other self-management task. In practice, the concept of a routine may be referred to as a step-by-step procedure, schedule, task list, plan, or even a goal. Regardless of the terminology, the essential principle is that any routine can be broken down into individual steps to facilitate learning. Educationally, teaching routines or breaking down activities into steps is often referred to as task analysis and is a key component of systematic instruction.  Continue reading

Podcasting: It Can Provide Opportunities for People with Autism

Leveraging special interests is a great way to engage people with autism in the world around them. Getting someone on the spectrum to talk about their area of special interest is not difficult. Rather, the challenge lies in getting them to shift to other topics or to show interest in those around them.

One way to celebrate and showcase an individual’s passion while subtly working on developing aspects of communication is through podcasting.

Continue reading

OSTC 2019: Igniting Partnerships for Student Success

This past March, Eugene welcomed transition specialists and educators from across the state of Oregon for two days of professional development and networking at the 2019 Oregon Statewide Transition Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was Igniting Partnerships for Student Success, a natural fit for our session on Supporting Seamless Transition Through Technology for Self-Determination and Data Sharing. Continue reading

Intelligent Lives Screening Highlights Community Inclusion and a Q&A

Earlier this month Phil Hayes, our New England Representative, had the opportunity to participate with his family in a unique experience highlighting the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in greater Swampscott, Massachusetts.

At an event co-sponsored by Swampscott Public Schools Student Services, TASH New England, and Swampscott Unites, Respects and Embraces (S.U.R.E) Diversity, Phil’s wife Lisa Julien-Hayes and twelve-year-old son Cole were selected as panelists during the screening of Intelligent Lives, a film by Dan Habib that highlights the origin and history of IQ tests and their long-term impact on society. Woven into the storyline are the backstories of three young adults with intellectual disabilities as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. Continue reading

Healthy Cooking Becomes Routine for Residents of Independent Living Program

Surprising Gifts of a Better Meal

Living in affordable housing units at Willakenzie Crossing, residents of SAIL Housing in Eugene, Oregon call over a dozen one-bedroom and studio apartments home-sweet-home. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, SAIL stands for “Supported Access to Independent Living” and operates with a mission of supporting sustainable housing in a life-enriching environment that fosters dignity and independence for adults with developmental disabilities.

As part of the program, residents gather weekly in the community room to socialize and learn new skills. When talking about cooking and eating habits in a group discussion last year, residents collectively admitted they struggled with finding healthy meal options and knowing how to follow a recipe. Continue reading

Transitions Cost More Than $2.3B in IDD Support Services

Cyclic Regression Causes Expensive Turnover, Painful Restarts, and Critical Struggles.

 Decrease staff training costs.
Create smoother transitions for clients.
Preserve your investments in human resources.
Have a sustained impact on client quality of life.

You have a clear and special mission to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), promote their independence, and to bring meaningful improvements to their lives. You measure success by how well you can increase their abilities and help them solve daily challenges. That’s why your organization exists, and that’s what builds a smile on your face and warms your heart. You take all the steps needed to design a high-quality program with the service payments available to drive the supports you provide. Continue reading

Free April Webinars for Autism Awareness Month

Over the past year, many of you expressed an interest in learning more about the Cognitopia platform of apps to support self-determination and independence for individuals with autism and other cognitive exceptionalities.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we have two free webinars scheduled for April:

  • Tuesday, April 16: 4pm – 5pm PST
  • Thursday, April 18: 12pm – 1pm PST

Register here for either of these days and times and we’ll send you an email with event details. If these times don’t work but you’d like to participate at another time, let us know that too because we’ll be holding additional sessions at a later date.

Meet our Founder: Tom Keating

For over 25 years, Tom Keating has worked on developing technology to improve the capabilities of people with cognitive disabilities. This has ultimately led to the development of the Cognitopia Platform for Self-Determination, which fosters greater independence and better support.

Continue reading

Meet the Artist

Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to roll out a new look-and-feel for the demo user accounts on our website. Each account persona has a backstory and a network of established relationships that mimic the real-world use case in which they would receive support toward self-determination, transition, and independent living. Continue reading

2018: A Year in Review

As 2018 comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect upon the progress Cognitopia has made this year. We credit much of this momentum and success to you, our many wonderful students, teachers, clients, and organizations using the Cognitopia Platform for Self-Determination on a daily basis to facilitate person-centered planning, goal setting, and self-managed independent living and work. Continue reading

Cognitopia Evolution: Then and Now

In many ways, Cognitopia got its start when our CEO and founder Tom Keating became the primary caregiver for his brother James who experienced autism. James moved from their parents’ home in New York to live with Tom and their other brother, Francis, in Eugene, Oregon in 1981.  Continue reading

Eugene Tech Company Awarded Almost $700,000 in New Grant Funding to Further Community Participation and Meaningful Employment for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities

PRESS RELEASE

EUGENE, OR: OCT 25, 2018: Assistech Systems, LLC, a small business focused on research and development of technology to support employment, education, and community living for youth and adults with cognitive disabilities, together with its commercialization partner, Cognitopia, announce two new grant projects that have been funded through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), which is housed in the Administration on Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new funding will support the development of digital technology that augments the company’s existing platform of web apps designed for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. Continue reading

Announcing the New MyLife

Earlier this week Cognitopia released a major upgrade to the MyLife ePortfolio application for IEP Self-Direction and Person-Centered Planning.

MyLife is being successfully used in elementary, middle, and high schools as well as in college programs and adult customized employment and supported living services across the United States. The new MyLife is more intuitive, customizable and user-friendly, strengthening the focus on self-determination—a core value of the Cognitopia Platform. The new design reflects the incredible feedback and suggestions we’ve received from all of these user groups. Continue reading

Giving Students Meaningful Data to Measure their Progress

Measuring student progress is essential to understanding areas of student need. For individuals with intellectual barriers or unique learning styles, activities like standardized testing or even quiz scores and letter grades over time can be demeaning and seem pointless. Perhaps more valuable for students’ overall educational experience is being able to understand for themselves how they are doing on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis through meaningful data visualization. Continue reading

Empowering Students to Participate in their Own IEP Meetings

Individual education planning (IEP) meetings can often be stressful for everyone involved and not feel particularly good for parents and teachers alike. But IEP meetings can be even more painful for students when they are not included and not prepared for what the meeting will involve.

Like many educators, I am a firm believer in having the student involved and engaged in their own IEP meeting and I often get asked about how to best involve students in the meeting planning process. Continue reading

Routines App: Creating Custom Categories in Routines

As the name implies, Custom Categories in Routines allows you to group a collection of routines that are specific to, say, an organization, a school, or a community living facility.

The benefit of the Custom Categories feature is that many people can be added to the category during the time it is created. For example, a teacher may create a custom category called Community Living Skills and add all of his currently-enrolled students with an existing Cognitopia account. Continue reading

Feature Update for ScanDo! App: Add to Print List

One of the original apps available within the Cognitopia platform, ScanDo! hasn’t had many design updates in recent months. And, until now, ScanDo! has primarily been a stand-alone app.

Using a relatively simple interface, ScanDo! is intended to provide on-demand support for task completion via images, video modeling, or text-based documents by browsing a curated library of media that are paired with a unique QR code. When you scan the QR code with the ScanDo! app, you see the document or video that is linked to that code. Continue reading