Secondary Brains: Assistive Technology

With advances in technology, being a neurodivergent person has become slightly easier. Much of the emphasis in school settings has been on tablets for augmentative and alternative communication, for daily schedules, social stories and other support aides, or for audio books and to type assignments rather than write. These tools are wonderful, and as they are general use technologies, they become cheaper and more accessible to a variety of people.

A line of technology that has been overlooked, however, are Wearables. These devices augment existing smart devices. From Apple Watch to Android Wear to FitBit and Garmin, smartwatches can provide support in executive functioning areas. When linked with your phone’s existing calendar and reminders, your smartwatch can provide support on your wrist without needing to take your phone out of your bag or pocket. As researchers and developers work more with these technologies, we can be sure to get apps and watches that also help us sustain attention, measure our emotions and regulate our sensory systems.

Another line of Wearables many are not aware of are “Hearables.” While AirPods (wireless bluetooth earbuds) are known to the general public, there is a lesser known benefit to this technology. Doppler Labs and Nuheara (Doppler Labs is no longer in business) pioneered this technology to provide relief from auditory overstimulation through their earbuds. These devices have microphones in their earbuds that take in the auditory information and then allow you to control what you hear from the outside world. While Hearables are priced out of range for most disabled people, Nuheara is working to make their devices accessible to a larger variety of people through both the possibility of donations to people as well as doing research to show their benefit to allow insurance and agencies cover the cost.

The landscape is looking wide open to providing better support for disabled people. We can only hope that more and more people are able to access these assistive devices.