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Can Alexa be a telecare system to listen out when you need emergency help?

Could Amazon’s Alexa disrupt the telecare industry?

Amazon dot a small black disc gadget with blue lights.

Amazon ‘Echo dot’ is now arond £50 and can connect to your mobile phone.

If you need help and can’t reach a phone, Amazon’s Alexa could be a lifeline.

Amazon’s hands-free devices are becoming more and more popular for disabled people who are finding them a boon for enhancing daily life, with an easy interface and voice control of music, books, information  and web shopping. In homes up and down the country, people are using them for everything from ordering shopping online to checking the weather. And now they can call your friends and relatives when you want them, adding a new level of communication and if needed, support. Almost an Alexa telecare system!
Amazon has added a new function to Alexa to allow you to link your mobile phone and call a friend or relative.  You can use it to phone or message anyone hands-free using the alexa family of devices including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show or the Alexa app on android smart phones or iphones, all with no extra cost.

Could Alexa supplement or replace telecare alarms for some people?

The Telecare industry provides peace of mind for people at home who may need help in an emergency and their families, traditionally using push button pendants worn on the body or pullcords installed in the house. The Alexa Echo system means you won’t even need to access those devices to make a call straight to your nearest and dearest, so could provide competition.
On the plus side, there are no buttons to be pushed or cords to be pulled. Only your voice is needed to activate Alexa and get your call made or message sent to your friends or relatives. All they need to do is download the free app onto their phones, and they can be reached instantly whenever you want. It does mean they will need their phones on and charged at all times. It also means that you need to be in voice range of an alexa device and able to call out. You could buy the smaller echo dot (at £50) and put them in each room. There is a voice operated controller that could also be carried.
And it’s not just in an emergency that you can make a call. Alexa will let you stay in touch all the time, with a hands-free calling and messaging system. this could be very useful for people who struggle with the buttons on phones or understanding how to use smart phones. Alexa will let also let you know when someone is calling you and the light ring will pulse green on newer Echo devices. You ask Alexa to answer or ignore the call.

“Drop in” : remote listening by others to your room!

There is also a feature called Drop In that allows selected family and friends to automatically call in to your device and listen to anything happening in range. This has privacy issues but could also be very reassuring to family and can be completely controlled by the owner of the device.

 

Disadvantages of Alexa as a telecare device

On the other hand, Alexa’s benefits are offset by the lack of 24-hour monitoring and support from call centres that are provided by a local Council services or private companies and the device could be affected by power cuts, whereas telecare systems are protected with back-up batteries.
A dark cylinder that houses the gadget Amazon alexa

Amazon echo

 

Old man with a telecare alarm pendant

Alarms needn’t be stigmatising but some people may feel that way. Image from https://www.telecarechoice.co.uk/ who are a private telecare provider

Then there is the issue of cost. Alexa costs £50 for the smaller ‘echo dot’ system but as mentioned above, you may need more than one to provide coverage- and while it offers a whole lot more than just telecare of course, it could be a big cost to pay upfront, compared to the smaller weekly charge, (around £5 or less), for traditional telecare devices.

However, some people may be reluctant to have telecare installed because of the stigma issues of pendants and monitoring. ‘Alexa telecare’ may be much more appealing to younger people or as a stepping stone to more traditional telecare if it becomes needed or as a supplement to offer more options and a ‘less formal’ call for help.

So what else can it offer? Alexa brings a whole world of communication, including downloadable quizzes, podcasts and music from Amazon. You can listen to the news, find out about the weather and “check in” with friends and relatives – as well as order anything online from mail order giants Amazon.
For some it might be a good way to supplement your existing emergency telecare needs; for others, it could even replace it altogether. But it’s worth investigating the device before you make an investment in it.

Learn more about Alexa and Echo here: amazon.co.uk/alexacalling

A service directory of telecare providers is here https://www.tsa-voice.org.uk/service-provider-directory

Abbreviations in Special Educational Needs – what do they mean?

Children in a circle in a special education classroom

A special educational needs setting

One thing you’ll notice about Special Educational Needs is the sheer number of abbreviations and acronyms you have to learn. What’s the difference between ASD and ADHD? What’s an EHCP? Should you be afraid of a COP? This guide should help you navigate…

(note: Where an abbreviation is written in initial lower case, it is usually pronounced as a word, for example it’s Senco, not ess ee en see oh).

 

ABA – Applied Behaviour Analysis is used to help children with autism, it looks at patterns of  behaviour and tries to find causes, and ways of dealing with them or preventing them.

AD – attachment disorder (sometimes attachment behaviour disorder, or ABD). This is a range of conditions believed to be caused by trauma in early childhood, which can lead to behavioural problems in childhood and adult life.

ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is a range of symptoms including impulsiveness, restlessness and finding it harder to focus than your peers. Because of the setting of school it is most often diagnosed during primary school age.

AR – Annual Review. All children with a statement of special educational needs (now an Education Health and Care Plan) have this provision reviewed once a year, to ensure it still meets their needs, or to see if it is no longer required. If progress is being made and the plan is right for the child without amendments, there may be a No Change Review (NCR).

APD – Auditory Processing Disorder – a child can hear ok medically, but is unable to process the meaning of words. Sometimes they can repeat words but without knowing what they are saying.

AS – Asperger Syndrome. A type of autism that generally involves higher functioning individuals who perceive the world in a way that most people would see as different. It is not associated with the learning delay or disabilities of other kinds of autism.

ASC – Autistic Spectrum Conditions. Many professionals now use the term “condition” instead of “disorder” to promote the idea that autism should not be a barrier to living a complete life, with necessary adjustments. See ASD.

ASD – autistic spectrum disorder, aka autism. This is a different way of perceiving the world around you. People with ASD often have difficulty reading emotions, making relationships or understanding social situations as easily as their peers, as well as a degree of learning difficulty. But as the word “spectrum” suggests, it covers a number of different levels of need, and conditions of varying severity.

ARE – age related expectations. If a child is working Below Age Related Expectations (BARE) they may have special educational needs.

BARE – see ARE

BESD Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties (also known as SEBD or EBD) is a ‘catch-all’ term  used for any condition that affects behaviour, emotions or social interactions. It
is used for a wide range of conditions and children.

BSP – Behaviour Support Plan. These are usually put in place by schools for children who have behavioural issues to assess their progress and outline expectations over a set period of time, for example a school term.

Camhs – Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

CIC – Child in Care. A child who is being looked after by (for example) a foster family after they have been removed from their parents by social services.

COP (or Cop) – Change of Provision. This is where a child moves from a special school to a mainstream school, or vice versa, because their needs (or the assessment of them) has changed.

CPAP (Cee-pap)- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is a fan and a face-mask, that blows air at the child increasing the air pressure to open the airways of the throat. It is used for breathing difficulties such as heavy snoring, asthma, low blood oxygen levels (SATS) and sleep apnoea.

EAL – English as an additional language. This generally means young people for whom English is not their first language, who may speak another language at home.

EHCP – Education, Health and Care Plan. This is a plan to help a child who has special educational needs in school. They are replacing statements and will have entirely replaced them by April 2018. There is a good post here on navigating that process.

EP (or Ed Psych) – Educational Psychologist. These experts help assess the needs of children who may have special educational needs by observing children in their educational setting.

EYFS – Early Years Foundation Stage. This is school or nursery-based education from birth to the end of Reception, when a child is five years old.

G Tube
A Gastronomy tube way of feeding a child who has swallowing or difficulty eating. There is a tube through the stomach wall (known as a PEG) so that food and medicines can go directly into the stomach. It is a longer term alternative to NG Tubes.

HI – Hearing Impairment (or Hearing Impaired).

IEP – Individual Education Plan
An IEP is a plan or a program built to help a child achieve the targets outlined in an
EHCP. It is built around the curriculum that the child is following and uses strategies
tailored directly to the child.

KS – Key Stage. Education in England is divided into Key Stages – KS1 from 5 to 7 years old, KS2 from 7 to 11, KS3 from 11 to 14 and KS4 from 14 to 16.

LA – Local Authority.

LAC – Looked After Child. More common term nowadays is CIC or “child in care”.

LSA – Learning Support Assistant. These education professionals often work one-to-one with a particular child with SEN to develop a relationship and help with their learning, which may be particularly differentiated to their needs. They may also assist with physical needs eg toileting.

MLD – moderate learning difficulties.

NCR – No Change Review. See AR.

Neet (or NEET) – Not in Education, Employment or Training. Young people without qualifications are at risk of being Neet – where their options for work or education are limited.

NG- tube – A thin (often yellow) Naso-gastric tube that can be used short term for emergency food and drink when a child cannot eat. It goes through the nose, down the throat and into the stomach and requires trained use as there is a danger that the tube is in an airway and not in the stomach.

OT – Occupational Therapy (or Therapist). Day-to-day physical therapies for children who have disabilities or who may require recuperation from eg surgery.

Pecs (or PECS) – Picture Exchange Communication System. This is a way of using pictures to represent words, to assist children who have communication issues and autism.

PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. These are children who require the most support in an educational setting.

PRU – Pupil Referral Unit. These are institutions which take “hard to place” children who may have severe SEN or behavioural issues, with the latter resulting in exclusion from a mainstream school.

SALT (or S&LT) – Speech And Language Therapy (or Therapist). These are professionals who help children, especially those with communication difficulties or autism.

SATS – oxygen saturations, often with ‘SATS monitor’ as seen on hospitals wards, they show a percentage indicating how much oxygen in the the blood. They can be small and portable or bigger when used for overnight monitoring. A home sats monitor can be bought here.

Grey box with digital percentage readings

A typical SATS monitor used in NHS hospitals but can also be given to parents for overnight monitoring

SLT – Senior Leadership Team. At a school, this comprises the head teacher and assistant heads (plus principals, if it is an academy).

SEMH – social, emotional and mental health. This is a range of needs that can include behavioural problems and anxiety.

SEN (or Sen) – special educational needs.

Senco (or SENCO, or Sendco, or SENDCO) – Special Educational Needs (and Disabilities) Co-ordinator. These are qualified teachers who organise and co-ordinate a school’s SEN provision by working with other professionals, organising EHCPs and interventions etc.

SEND – special educational needs and disabilities

SWAN – Syndrome without a name
Children who doctors have been unable to diagnose with a specific condition are
often referred to as SWAN. These are usually children with a genetic disorder. A support charity called SWAN is here.

TA – Teaching Assistant. These professionals have a couple of roles: in the classroom they support the work of the class teachers, and they also teach small groups of children, particularly with interventions.

VI – Visual Impairment (or Visually Impaired).

Some of this information was taken from a printable glossary created by the Little Miracles charity which is available to download here

Little Miracles is a charity that supports children with disabilities and their families and siblings in the Peterborough area of UK.

Please suggest any acronyms or abbreviations that you have encountered in the comments.

Real Greepers shoelaces could have the edge on elastics

New research has struck a blow for “real” shoelaces in the battle against elastic laces.

The report, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, looked at different lacing patterns in sports shoes, and found that a firm “foot-to-shoe coupling” (FTSC) could be beneficial to athletes and less sporty folk alike.

It’s not just professional athletes who will benefit from the security of Greepers laces

Real shoelaces, such as those used by the revolutionary “always tied” Greepers laces, provide that secure attachment.

The research went on to say: “A firm foot-to-shoe coupling… leads to a more effective use of running shoe features and is likely to reduce the risk of lower limb injury.”

Researchers at Sheffield University are investigating the benefits of running performance using real laces, and have uncovered some promising findings that should make all runners  – and non-runners alike – think about how they lace their shoes.

Why choose real shoelaces?

The right shoes – and laces – can make a world of difference to runners. A firm FTSC helps stop excessive movement of the foot and lower leg, reducing the risk of injury by eliminating unnecessary bends, pulls and twists.

Think about how your foot moves when you plant it on the ground. Do you want it firmly anchored, or able to stretch on elastic? Opinions vary among professional athletes and occupational therapists alike, and sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste and preference.

champion triathlete running through the rain with greeper laces

Silver winning Jacqui Allen at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships.
Greeper laces are used by top athletes.

But, with research indicating that injuries could be reduced with less stretchy laces, the debate is sure to intensify.

And, unlike elastic laces that allow extra movement of the foot as you pound the pavements, “real” shoelaces such as Greepers provide minimal movement, aiming to lessen the impact of every step.

review of greeper laces

Greeper review in Triathon Magazine

Security with every step

It’s not just athletes who will find a benefit in having shoelaces that are firmly attached. It’s easy to see how disabled athletes, people with joint pain or bone weakness and  those of us with reduced mobility need security and stability with every single step.

Greepers provide a simple and accessible solution. Once they’re tied once, you don’t need to tie them again – meaning they can be loosened and tightened but not undone. If you find it a pain to reach down and tie shoelaces, or need a shoelacing solution for someone who needs to know they won’t have to keep tying and untying at school, these sturdy and stylish laces offer the perfect package.gif showing how to tie greeper laces

Greepers are available in a range of different styles

Many parents find the Greepers laces the perfect choice for children who have a range of needs, for example if children regularly take off their shoes at unwanted times or if they have difficulty in tying them and don’t like the feel of Velcro fastenings.

There’s also the Greeper fastening device for people who can only use one hand, to help get the laces snug.

 

 

 

 

Greepers are available at Equ4l.com