Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) - Putting technology in the palm of our hands
By Natalie Zaraska
This article appeared in the November/December 2001 issue of Occupational Therapy Now magazine published by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
It all began over two years ago…I was working with a, motivated, eager young man returning to the work force following a serious motor vehicle accident. In this accident, he sustained a moderate brain injury and numerous soft tissue injuries. He is a part of the "silently injured group": at first, he appears to have been left unscathed but impaired memory, organization, planning and emotional control are unfortunate daily realities.
His pre- and post-accident vocational goal was to succeed in the business/investment-banking world. He had not been successful with a traditional day planner (paper/pen). He never carried it with him no matter what size and never managed to record anything of value. He missed appointments and could not remember the simplest of tasks — naturally, this was very frustrating for a young man. The solution to some of these frustrations came in the form of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), a high-tech organisational device small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag. This device allowed my client to schedule appointments, set alarms (reminders), access and maintain a "to-do" list, and carry his contact information (address book). This client was the perfect candidate for using the available technology to assist him with his impairments.
The challenge as therapists is to be aware of the current technology and determine if and when a PDA could be beneficial to our clients. A client who may benefit is one with cognitive impairments including memory, organization, planning, and scheduling difficulties, often young, perhaps returning to the work force or a volunteer position, and is comfortable using a desktop computer and accepting new technology.
A good strategy when introducing a PDA is to encourage clients to use software such as Microsoft Outlook on their desktop computer to learn how to schedule appointments, set reminder alarms, list tasks to be done, input contact names, addresses, and telephone numbers, etc. Following success with this, a review of devices is suggested by going to a store which carries a variety of PDA's. F
Product information is available at the following web sites:
Many of the latest devices feature very advanced possibilities, which may or may not be required. Some of the possibilities of the PDA may be over and above the expertise of the therapist in which case technical support should be considered to get the device set up appropriately. This would include establishing the connection to the client's desktop computer, eliminating unwanted programs, installing other programs — the possibilities are endless for making the device more appropriate and sometimes easier for the client to use by tailoring it to his/her needs. Technical support, if required, should be available to visit the client's home and assist him/her with set-up and problem solving.
Natalie Zaraska, BSc(OT), MSc, OT Reg (Ont.)
Rehabilitation Management Inc.
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