The Apple Watch: My Personal Experience, Written By: Betsy Furler, SLP and Caregiver of a Medically Fragile Child

As a tech addict, when the Apple Watch came out, as hard as I tried to resist and wait for version two, I just had to have it.  I was asked to speak about wearables at the 2015 ANCOR & AAIDD Technology Summit & Showcase and I felt that was a sign that I had to have the watch now!

Since getting my Apple Watch, I have been researching and experimenting with the watch and possible uses of Apple Watch with people with disabilities.

The Apple Watch is a very personal device. It is definitely a device that is worn by one individual and not a shared device.  Because of the personal nature of the device, it is also very discreet and could be used in a classroom or office setting without disturbing the other people in the environment.

There are several features that have been very helpful to me, a caregiver of a medically fragile child.  The biggest one is the ability to move around the office or house without my phone.  I can now leave my phone on my desk or in one part of my house and still have access to all my phone data and features. I also appreciate the ease of checking a text or call with my watch quickly in case of emergency.  If I am busy, I can easily flip up my wrist to check the email or text rather than having to dig out my phone. This allows me to be available to my child and his other caregivers without being tied to my phone.  I can also answer texts and emails directly from the watch with preprogrammed phrases or with Siri.

Everyday there are more and more apps available for the Apple Watch. Here are a few that I have used:

  • The clock feature on the watch can be used as an alarm clock or timer.
  • Find my phone feature – this feature allows you to touch a button on the watch to set off an alarm on your iPhone in case you have misplaced it.
  • Calendar – the calendar events saved on the iPhone are visible on the watch.
  • Reminders – there are several apps available that allow you to get reminders of events directly on the watch. One in particular is called Remind Me.  You can also set reminders based on location.
  • Maps – the maps app on the phone populates to the watch.  Turns and other directions are noted on the watch screen and the watch taps your wrist.  This works for walking as well as driving. It also works on public transportation in some cities.
  • ProLoQuo2Go – this AAC communication app can be used on the Apple Watch.  You can use the app to say short phrases by showing the text on the watch. This is great for short answers and also give others a warning that you need to get your phone or iPad out for communication.
  • Children with Autism: Visual Schedule – this is a visual schedule app that can be used for adults or children.  The schedule is created and edited on the phone and then shown on the watch.  There are preprogrammed events within the app and you can make custom events with your own photos.  The app can be used on the watch as a discreet reminder for what the person should be doing and as a cue for transitions. 
  • The health data from the watch such as heart rate can be viewed on the watch app on your phone. 
  • The watch tracks activity time (steps and amount of time you spend moving), calories burned and standing times. This data is shown on the watch as a graphic with concentric rings. When you complete all three rings, you have reached your fitness goal for the day. There is also an app called Cue that reminds you to do healthy things, for example, take a short walk, stretch, drink water, posture, breathe, or go outside. You choose 5 or 9 per day. You can choose which activities you want on the app. For example if you have a child that wanders, you can turn the take a walk cue off.
  • There are many cases and fun straps available now on Amazon.  I use a case on my watch in case I hit it against something. The case provides more protection.

There are some exciting developments on the horizon for the Apple Watch.  Johns Hopkins is currently doing a study with the Apple Watch and epilepsy.  This is the first clinical study to use the Apple Watch in a ResearchKit study, according to a release from Apple. The Apple Watch’s sensors will be used to track a patients’ seizures and eventually to allow them to alert caregivers and loved ones about the onset of a seizure.  I think the biggest con to the Apple Watch is the price. The least expensive version is about $400. I feel that the AppleWatch is a fun and innovative product that shows great promise for use with people of all ages and all abilities.  I have benefitted greatly from my watch and I am excited to see future apps and features for the watch that further enhance lives.

The Apple Watch can be purchased from the Apple Store.

Starting Price is USD $349.00

 

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