Representative Gabrielle Giffords sent a “Happy Birthday” tweet to her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, as he prepares for his upcoming Space Shuttle mission. OK, the “Tweet” was actually sent by one of her staff members, but that doesn’t mean that Representative Giffords is not “tech-enabled.” On January 20th, Reuters reported that only 12 days after she was shot in the head, Giffords can stand with assistance, has tried to speak and is using an iPad.
“She is beginning to stand with assistance, she is scrolling through an iPad — these are all fantastic advances for her. They do show higher cognitive function,” Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurology at University Medical Center in Tuscon told reporters.
An avid iPad user before her injury, it is not surprising that Giffords might use her iPad during her recovery. However, in a larger sense, its use highlights the potential for lightweight, touch screen devices to help patients with cognitive and motor deficits. For example, these devices can be used by those who have speech impediments as a communication tool.
According to the Wall Street Journal, software called Proloquo2Go ” is one of a growing number of apps aimed at people with speech difficulties developed for Apple’s gadgets. Some of the apps offer images that users can press to make the sound of a word; others lead students through stories to teach them basic speech patterns.”
They have also been used in children with autism. (Click here to go to a review of “10 Revolutionary iPad Apps to Help Autistic Children.”)
What makes the iPad an especially good tool for certain patients? Some advantages include:
What is the biggest drawback? It seems to be the reluctance of insurance companies to pay for the technology, despite the fact that it costs only a fraction of what “professional devices” cost. Why? Because they can be used for “nonmedical” purposes as well as medical ones. See two good articles on this topic:
Seems to me that with medical and insurance costs skyrocketing, we should use whatever is the most appropriate AND cost-effective device. What do you think?