Thursday, April 21, 2016

Passport for adults with guardians -- similar to procedure for passport for minor

We’re redoing #1’s passport renewal — because we followed the adult procedure, not the children’s procedure I wrote about in 2007. We were told since we are #1’s legal guardians we have to repeat the procedure with both of us present. (I’m not sure if we pay again, I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Even knowing about this requirement I’m unable to find anything online about it. I wonder if it’s a recent change.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Google - Accessibility isn't only about vision and touch, cognitive disabilities are neglected.

Google got some good press recently for a $20 million dollar accessibility project developer grant. It’s a good initiative, but Google’s Accessibility site doesn’t consider cognitive issues.

That’s a shame, because there’s a lot Google could do. They could, for example, read my book (not published yet, but I’ll provide preprints). Of course Google isn’t alone, neither Apple nor Microsoft nor Facebook have built in support for teens and adults with cognitive disabilities. Depending on how one defines cognitive disability this is a much larger population than adults with visual and mother disorders.

There’s a lot Google could do, and there are good commercial reasons to address this need. Just as wheelchair sidewalk curb cuts have been a boon to strollers and elder walkers, cognitive adaptations also apply to many elderly and most children.

What kind of adaptations?

The obvious adaptations are scalable interfaces, such as simplified versions of Google Mail or Google Calendar. There are other angles to consider though. In Smartphones for All - Using iPhone and Android to build independence for atypical minds I write about the role of Explorer and Guide. Google, Facebook and Apple could explicitly support the role of the Guide, including delegation of identity. The Big Three could provide a formal way to apply restrictions designed for under 18 to over 18 adults with guardians or delegated Guides.

Some of these adaptations take more work than others, but in many cases we’re more than half-way there. Web services that work with both smartphone apps and a Chrome browser with Profile support enable the Guide role today, they can be extended and formalized.

The first step is for Google, Apple and Facebook to put cognitive disabilities on their roadmap. I like to think they just haven’t known how to start. All they need to do is read this blog post…

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hockey as a guide to behavioral interventions

#1 and I made our first trip to the yearly USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival, special hockey division.

Watching two of his hockey issues I realized they mapped well onto behavioral issues.

He’s a strong player, but very weak at passing. He also over-responds to aggression or even accidents, rapidly escalating. (Sometimes, to his credit, the emotional response is so strong he removes himself from play. Which isn’t a great response, but not the worst. Fortunately this is special hockey, a more forgiving place.)

I think both of these match onto more global issues.

Passing is cognitively hard and, unless one has skilled teammates, often unrewarding. Instead of scoring a goal, the puck goes to the opposing team. The only reason a strong player passes to a weaker player is because of social pressure and social rewards. Turn-taking type behavior in other words. #1 is weak at this kind of interaction; he doesn’t “feel” the social pressure.

Handling escalation is also tricky. #1’s sister can set him off with a look. (If she’s in a bad mood this works well to spread the feeling.) He is unable to respond with an equal or lesser action; in part because he mis-remembers the initial provocation. In his memory it is far bigger than it was; though in hockey the aggression is often flagrant*.

Both of these issues will factor into our summer behavioral program goals. Special hockey will give us a concrete way to manage progress. If he passes the puck, and returns an elbow with no more than an elbow, then we’ll have made real progress.

* Parenthetically, we have a bit of a referee problem in special hockey. If they come from regular hockey they overlook the routine illegal roughness that is hard for even neurotypical players to handle (fights!) and is well beyond what special hockey players can manage. Conversely, if they are used to less competitive special hockey they are unprepared to see elbows thrown and sticks slashed. It’s a hard job.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Employment - an unexpected direction for #1

Our #1 has always straddled the borderline between (legal) disability and non-college employment. Much as he has been on the borderline between participating in conventional sports (rec hockey, adult hockey) and assisted sports (special hockey). 

That trend continues. During a work rotation through the first year of his ‘transition program’ he was offered part-time (50%) conventional employment doing warehouse work. Not enough to live on, but perhaps a problem for qualifying for disability, supplemental needs trusts, 529 ABLE plans, housing support, medicaid and more.

He is, of course, quite excited. We have, of course, mixed feelings. We haven’t focused on managed savings, budget training, debit cards and the like. That seemed years away, and likely to involve only trace amounts of money. What happens now to his transition program? Do we now get him his (deferred during transition program as is the peculiar norm) high school diploma? Do we divert his income into “room and board” that we can in turn invest in an S&P index fund for him?

What about transportation? He hasn’t completed transit training and it’s a difficult 1 hr bus ride to his job site. We are fortunate he is a strong cyclist, the weather is decent, and there’s a safe 30 minute route to work.

I suspect he will tire of employment once the novelty wears off. That has been a common pattern with other activities on the far side of disability. He is older though, and we see signs of more executive function. Flexible we remain…