Saturday, September 21, 2013

Apple's iOS 7 is a big improvement for special needs community - parental controls that work

It hasn't gotten much attention outside of some Christian conservative and geek blogs, but iOS 7 has fixed the longstanding parental controls webkit hole. I first wrote about this problem back in August 2010, when I was particularly enthused about the benefits of iOS for #1 son's use.

That enthusiasm was muted by years of struggle with adolescence, impulse control, and the webkit access flaw he exploited mercilessly.

Now, with iOS 7, the struggle appears to have ended. With my permission #1 attempted, vigorously, to bypass the new controls. He failed, indeed he has had to sheepishly ask me to grant permissions for webkit holes I didn't know about [1].

In addition Apple has done some magic to deal with technical issues related to https use that have completely broken parental controls on OS X Mountain Lion. Today Safari on iOS 7 is much more useful for #1 and #2 that it is on Mountain Lion.

iOS 7 is buggy, and does run somewhat slowly on old iPhone 4 hardware, but this one improvement is more than worth the cost.

[1] Example: In MLB baseball player stats display uses embedded webkit, and so they are a potential avenue to the unfiltered net.

Update 11/29/2013.

Siri: "Show me pictures of dogs". Shows dogs.

Siri: "Show me pictures of xxxx"....

You have to disable Siri, there are no parental controls there. I wonder sometimes if we need a different kind of IQ testing for #1.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Special needs and population health management

Buried in a discussion of improving care of patients who spend a lot of time in emergency rooms, and who cost health care systems a lot of money, is a very interesting phrase
Practicing Award-Winning Population Health | McKesson Better Health
... HCMC decided to open the Coordinated Care Center after its internal studies showed that 3 percent of its patients were responsible for about half of its total costs. To ensure a focus on those high-cost patients, the care center has admitted only patients who had been hospitalized at least three times in the previous 12 months.
... HCMC realized that drug use, homelessness, mental health issues and cognitive impairments are “the kinds of things that fuel super-use,” he says, so it structured the Coordinated Care Center around multidisciplinary teams that include not only doctors but nurse care coordinators, social workers, behavioral health workers and drug abuse counselors who “work together on the underlying problems.”...
Drug use and homelessness are always included in discussions of health care costs, but I do not recall ever seeing mention of cognitive impairment, and of programs specifically targeting cognitively impaired adults who are seen in emergency rooms.

I'll be tracking this.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Special needs update Sept 2013: High School again

Quick notes that might be of interest to caregivers ...

  • #2 son ("aspergers", college-bound, grade 9) has started high school at a local teache-run project-based granola-heavy charter school program. This will be an interesting experiment. Our primary concern will be college requirements and getting passable scores on college entry exams. 
  • #1 son (various, not college, grade 11) did quite well over the summer learning Algebra via DragonBox. He's excited about his Algebra 1 text; he does better at algebra than he did with arithmetic. It's a relief to have him finally "allowed" to use a calculator and forget trying to do long division. He's also (finally) doing "shop" (mechanical skills are deeply unfashionable in American high schools) and is very keen on that as well -- and he's learning useful skills.
  • We've made fantastic progress in social acceptance and support of the neuro-atypical over the past forty years, but we're still in early days with "gender relationships". That will the frontier over the next twenty years, then we'll tackle senior issues ...
  • Managing #1 son as an almost 17 yo is much easier than managing him as a 4-5 yo. He used to only respond to positive feedback, which is like rowing a boat with one oar. Now he has some understanding of consequences and of the near future, so we have one and a half oars. On the other hand, the stakes are far higher, the quirks more complex, and the cost of mistakes far greater. At least we're holding our ground though.
  • #1 son did pretty well at his summer "job" working with horses at a (jewish) summer camp. That camp has been good to our (gentile) family.
  • #1's high school is hell bent on serving the elite white community (see this, this and this), which means it's competing with academic-strict white charter schools. Big focus on strict grades, no retakes, etc. On the other hand, his teachers seems an experienced and sensible group -- including the brilliant one who is going on maternity leave (shouldn't be allowed -- just bring baby to class :-).
  • St Paul schools have realized that their systems for net filtering and use controls are completely broken [1]. Their response is to edge towards a "zero tolerance" policy of net misuse. This will be a problem for quite a few teenage boys, but it's an almost impossible problem for teenage boys with substantial frontal lobe dysfunction. On the other hand #1s stealth is astounding [2] and his special ed teachers scoff at the written policy. So we'll track this.
  • Along the lines of Come a long way we recently competed the St Paul Classic. We toured the route by car a week before the event, and we've done portions of it many times, but it still went remarkably well. #1 easily completed the 30 mile route, and was a safer and wiser rider than every other teen and 80% of the adults.

[1] I completely sympathize - there is literally no way to fight this without a LOT more help from Apple and Google -- neither of which show the slightest interest in helping parents or schools. This is especially true because the same technologies that protect us from hackers (and the NSA) also break old-tech filters. Ultimately though I blame parents -- who don't pressure Apple/Google to pay attention.

[2] HIs ability to cover his net tracks is a weird pseudo-savant feature akin to his freaky visual processing. These kinds of capabilities are why I remain unsure of his future limits.