Computer Based Devices Help People with Special Needs

My nephew has Down Syndrome. He has special needs that are a result of his physical and mental challenges. His ability to talk to and understand the world around him is limited in many ways. But with the assistance of a computer, cell phone, iPod and digital camera, he is creating a richer world for himself, and showing others who he is.

When it comes to these four tools – the computer, cell phone, iPod, and digital camera – many of us become Special Needs folks. Each one of these tools presents distinct mental challenges once they are turned on – if you can find the button to turn them on. I am quite computer literate, but that comes from years of practice. I view the cell phone as merely a tool of convenience should my car break down on the highway. So I have not established any kind of rapport with my phone. My one attempt at text messaging was a disaster. I love my digital camera, but I know it would work even better if I could remember what all the cryptic little symbols mean. Then there is the iPod. My thoughts about that are in a previous post.

My nephew, on the other hand, is cell phone, iPod and digital camera savvy. Apparently he speaks cryptic little symbols. The computer is more of a challenge to him. It uses cryptic little words and phrases, and reading isn’t part of his skill set. But with “text to speech” software, and a bit of coaching from his family, his computer has become a useful tool, and good company.

My nephew asked me to clean-up his old laptop computer because he was giving it to a friend. The computer didn’t contain any sensitive information he wanted removed, he just wanted it to run better.

I always look forward to peeking into another persons computer. To me, it is like looking into their eyes and seeing what is going on in their brain. What they put on their desktop, what programs they install, how they organize their files, how their mind works – is right there on their computer.

My nephews computer told me many things. Someone had spent a lot of time installing programs to help him, and then teaching him  how to use them.  These included photo programs, and games. With the text to speech software, he had been able to read e-mail, and things on the internet. And with iTunes, he was the master of his music.

The computer had, however, got bogged down by the fact that not enough attention had been paid to the dreary task of maintenance. You can say what you like about the self-sufficiency of modern operating systems, but now and then someone has to come on over and do a bit of house cleaning.

Once I booted the computer up, I was greeted by a browser hijacker called “Anykuy”.  There were also quite a few auto-start programs sitting on the desk, ready to go. The hard drive was quite full. The computer moved as slow as molasses. I won’t go into great detail about how I wrestled with this computer, but the work included:

– the removal of a number of worms, trojan horses, spyware and viruses.

– the download of 97 Windows updates.

– the update of Internet Explorer.

– the update of virus and spyware programs

– the removal of 17 programs that weren’t needed.

– the deletion of lots of unnecessary files.

– the use of a Registry Cleaner.

– Defrag.

Some of the problems on this computer resulted from the fact that my nephew doesn’t know how to respond to warnings that come from his anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Some of the problems resulted because his computer was not set up to automatically update the most important programs on his computer. And some of the problems came from the fact that a lot of software thinks it should load up when the computer is booted.

If you have read the above and you know exactly how my nephews computer should have been set up in the first place, then please volunteer your time and skills to people who need that kind of help. If you sell computers, offer a service that helps people to set up their computers to fit their specific needs. If you have no idea what I was talking about, than please go out and find a computer-wise person who can help you!