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.

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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

More Snap Peas Please

There was one moment using the Picture Planner visual calendaring program back in 2001 that particularly sticks out for me.

Through the Eugene 4J Schools Community Living Program, students have the opportunity to volunteer at a nearby community garden. Like many people with autism spectrum disorders, my students that year had very restricted diets. Many of the students refused to eat vegetables. One person had never eaten foods that were a different color other than white. Continue reading