Technology and Its Usefulness for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. I am back with my letter T post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about technological advances and their usefulness (or lack thereof) for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

There exist a myriad of technological devices to presumably help people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Some include alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices. While these are not for everyone, some people definitely benefit from them. Some of these technologies require a special device, but there is an increasing number of AAC apps available for conventional smartphones and tablets.

Other technologies are used to help people with more severe intellectual or developmental disabilities have different sensory experiences. For example, there’s a thing called the CRDL (pronounced “cradle”), which can be used by a disabled person along with their caregiver. When the device is touched in various ways, it produces different sounds and if I’m correct even vibrations.

Other pieces of technology merely help a person to relax, such as the InmuRelax, a sort of pillow which produces a soundscape when held in order to calm people during the night. Having used the Inmu a few times, I can say I prefer my music pillow, which is far cheaper.

Then there are of course interactive “pets”. These are not stuffed animals and should not be treated like toys, so people with severe or profound intellectual disabilities are probably not suited to handle them. Rather, they are electronics with some fur around them to make them look like real-life cats or (small) dogs, which people can then stroke or cuddle with gently. These interactive animals are mostly intended for people suffering from early to mid-stage dementia rather than for the intellectually disabled, although I’ve seen them being well handled by more capable intellectually disabled people who realize these are like pets, not toys.

Lastly, there currently is a research project going on with “social robots” in long-term care for people with intellectual disabilities. These robots could be programmed to, for instance, remind clients to take their meds, do certain tasks, or they could even ask them questions. It is kind of intended that the robots would become a “buddy” to the intellectually disabled person. I honestly cringe at the idea. Not the reminders or even if the robot woke me up with a cheery “Good morning, Astrid, what would you like for breakfast?”. I am reminded of a time my psychologist, back in like 2013, asked me whether I was okay with a robot doing my morning routine. When I said “Hell, no!”, she saw this as a sign of dependence. I currently start my day on my own anyway, so whether it’s my vibrating, beeping Apple Watch waking me up or a robot, I don’t care. And as for the reminders, I’ve actually thought about asking my staff to help me learn to use a day scheduling app. However, the cringe-worthy thing for me is the “buddy” part. Yes, I know long-term care needs to be cut, but a robot isn’t going to replace human interaction if you ask me.

5 thoughts on “Technology and Its Usefulness for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities #AtoZChallenge

    1. Well, it’s probably not as bad as it sounds. These are probably more like advanced day planner devices that can assist people with reminding them to take their meds and such and in a more human-like way than an alarm would. In this sense, I don’t object. It also may be useful for those who actually are very aloof and cannot process human interaction, because, well, the robot can be programmed to be slower to respond. But the mention of the robot as a “buddy” and then it replacing part of staff’s work, made me cringe.


    1. Oh yes, that makes sense and it isn’t even intended specifically for the disabled. Those who use sight-related accessibility features on their iPhones, can invert colors (I’m not sure howit works with primary or secondary colors but at least black and white) and could long before dark mode to make the screen more readable.


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