Teaching compassion, empathy, or knowing how to help someone is best learned through direct experience. Autism Discovery Tool, by Spectrum Idea Lab Inc. is one such app that promotes not only understanding, but also ways to help address an individual’s needs, and gives kids and adults a chance to “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”. It was intended as a tool to help kids on the spectrum, their families and caretakers identify both sensory styles and compensatory techniques so that they could open up a dialogue to communicate and share experiences. This little app however, has a much more powerful impact and reach. I consider it an essential app for all classrooms and families who deal with sensory issues, and not limited to those on the autistic spectrum alone. As human beings, our ability to process input and give an appropriate response varies greatly from day to day. Time of day, what we may have eaten or not eaten, or where we are, all affects our ability to remain calm, focused, and ready for action. For example, being at home is far different than being at school, or in the middle of an amusement park in terms of staying in the present moment.
Seven senses are portrayed along with strategies for helping someone stay organized or in other words…At the top of their game:
- Vestibular – this is the sense of where your head is in space and directly relates to balance. It is a primeval sense and one that influences almost every other sense organ. It is located in the inner ear, and it is closely connected to the visual and auditory systems. Its synchronization teaches us spatial concepts, sequencing, and ultimately understanding given direction.
- Proprioception – yep, this is the sense that teaches body awareness and position. It brings us to the here and now and what is happening in the present moment. It is our hand in our pocket feeling for a toy, our feet on the earth and what keeps us grounded, and that we are seated in a chair. So many of the children I see now, have a decreased proprioceptive sense because of not experiencing time on their bellies. Belly time helps desensitize the hands and mouth, promotes postural control, and graded movement through weight bearing or weight shifting movements. This is the sense that helps kids to grade control specifically in their head and neck, trunk, and helps the visual system learn to converge on a target.
Each page contains a section to explore another person’s experience or possible perception occurring with a particular sense and find the discovery tools for compensating with a sense when responses are out of sync. It explains what others may be seeing as far as what some kids use as a tool at school or something they may want to try to keep themselves focused. Because we can never truly look inside an individual, we need to probe or sometimes make a guess at what they are experiencing. And that is what makes dealing with sensory processing disorders so baffling. It is not only different in EVERY individual but also what works at one moment, may not work later in the day or even tomorrow. We are always changing and evolving, and that is why a toolbox is so essential. It teaches one to stay open, and notice…a child’s response to a strategy in a specific environment. Usually when trying a new strategy, it either works or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground. So using a strategy doggedly does not work. It is just an indication to move on.
Within the app, one gets to view a typical perception or response of a sense, a hyper response or over-sensitive response, an under responsive response, a distorted response (which may be all over the place), or an enhanced response which may lead an individual to a vocation or an enhanced point of view. The graphics are spot on, and are pertinent to kids in preschool, elementary school, or older kids in a life skills setting. Sound is largely ambient and relevant to the particular scene. I can’t say enough about this app, and am so appreciate of its ability to communicate experience so effectively. I Love it! A TWA top pick.
Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of Sepa, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing in Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps has been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.