Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving for our health, abilities, and things that can help

Reading devices help people with strokes, neurological disabilities

In the picture are Chrissy Akers (left), a graduate student in speech pathology, and Tina Puglisi-Creegan, a clinical instructor, who are helping Tom Calteux "relearn the reading process with the aid of a Kindle years after having a stroke.  Although he never lost his ability to write, the part of his brain that makes the connection between letters and comprehension was damaged."

Harvey Black, writing for the Journal Sentinel, feels that "The Kindle and the iPad are in many ways the face of today's communication technology" and that there's "more to these devices than just making life a bit easier and more entertaining."

Here's the start of the article, using another photo of the Kindle 2:
' Clinicians at Marquette University are using them to help patients overcome neurological disabilities and strokes.

The devices "avoid the stigma of disability and bring individuals into the mainstream by using current technology.  It has a real uplifting psychological and emotional contribution to patients," said Marquette University speech-language pathologist Tina Puglisi-Creegan.

For the past two years, Thomas Calteux has been using the Kindle to help him read, under Puglisi-Creegan's guidance, at the university's Speech and Hearing Clinic.

The lightweight, hand-held wireless device allows users not only to download books, but also to convert text to synthesized speech, change font size and control the rate at which the text is presented.

"It's fun to use," said Calteux, 61, a former photo editor at the Journal Sentinel.

"I sit and read. It's so much easier than moving pages and stuff like that," said Calteux, who had a stroke in 1998 that robbed him of his reading ability.

The Kindle's text to speech function is helpful. Hearing the words can aid him in understanding passages if he has trouble grasping the meaning of words he sees.  The Kindle's easily accessible dictionary is another aid, Calteux noted.

He has been in therapy since 1999 to help him regain his reading skills.

At the start of his rehabilitation, Calteux could not identify the letters of the alphabet or even sound out letters, Puglisi-Creegan said.

The years of rehabilitation after the stroke involved hours of work, using flash cards and worksheets. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating.

It's like going back to school, Puglisi-Creegan explained.

"When he had trouble you could see tears develop," she said.

After using the Kindle, which is owned by the clinic, Calteux says he wants to buy his own.  Other patients also use the device, said Puglisi-Creegan.

"It's a joy to see how it has taken off. People want to be like everyone else," she said.

A representative of, which sells the Kindle, said there are a number of anecdotes from stroke patients nationwide using Kindles to help them read. '

The article continues with how an iPad is used to provide a voice.  See the full article to read how that's done.  About its effect, they point out:
' One goal of integrating the iPad into rehabilitation is to increase interaction with other people, said Courtney Miller, a student clinician working with Erin.

Using an iPad doesn't "flag the user as a person with a disability," Brueck said.

"A person with a vocal impairment could pull this out and no one would know that this was a device for communication," she said. '

The article goes on to talk in detail about what works and why and also what doesn't for some and cites the advantage of the two devices as less bulky and "easier to use than conventional speech augmentation devices," the latter often overwhelming for clients, therapists and caregivers.

Then it mentions some drawbacks of non-'dedicated' rehabilitation devices (specifically the touch keyboard on the iPad as the example given) and that government funds can't be used to buy expensive iPads, though they're still "one-tenth the cost of conventional dedicated speech devices."

Gregg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which focuses on making computer technology accessible to the disabled, says that devices like the iPad can be a "powerful new base from which to build assistive technologies..."

He adds that when looking at these new general-use devices, "Putting wheels on a regular chair can't simply substitute for a wheelchair and that "...there is danger that the availability of quick or less expensive solutions may prevent someone from finding a solution that really is effective."

An article about Yelp's new business offering was of interest because the Google News link introduced the item by saying that Amazon was in talks with Yelp about using the new technology.  But this would indicate an app on a mobile device.  So I clicked on the article link.

  When I got to the article, Amazon is not mentioned at all, which indicates that amy mention was removed from the article.  This stirred my interest even more. :-)
  The technology involves offers and discounts that are location-based.  I use often to find others' favorite places in my area for just about anything.  Got my favorite dentist that way and cured my fear of dentists.  Am wondering what Amazon might be interested in there.

  I explored a bit and see that according to Dave Marin, a search and data-mining engineer at Yelp, which generates about 100GB of daily log data, the Yelp team discovered Amazon's Elastic MapReduce (EMR) service.
 "O'Reilly's radar" writer Julie Steele reports, "That's when they decided to migrate their entire code base over to Amazon so they could dispose of their own Hadoop cluster and rent such services on an as-needed basis..."
  Amazon seems to be into everything these days, while some still like to say "They're just booksellers."

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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