Geneva Centre for Autism Launches e-Learning Initiatives Using Palm Mobile Technology

    New e-Learning Program Funded by <a href="">Palm Foundation</a> Grant Promotes Greater
    Independence Among Individuals with Autism

    TORONTO, Jan. 31 /CNW/ - Palm Canada today announced a Palm Foundation
cash grant and the donation of 100 Palm(R) handhelds and accessories to
kick-start a new e-Learning program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The
resources are being used for training and technical-support costs associated
with transferring paper-based visual cues and reminders onto Palm handheld
devices. The handheld's design, portability, ease of use and ability to
support visuals has proven to be a valuable learning tool for individuals with
    Today's announcement represents Phase II of Palm's commitment to
Geneva Centre for Autism. In Phase I, Palm worked with the centre to create an
e-Learning pilot program that involved training a small group of teens and
young adults with autism to use <a href="">Palm Z22 handhelds</a>. As part of Phase II, the
centre is receiving 100 new <a href="">Palm T/X handheld devices</a>, which will enable the
centre to increase the number of individuals who can participate in the
program and advance those who have benefited from Phase I. Part of the Palm
Foundation grant also includes protective cases, headsets, stylus pens and
keyboards for the new T/X devices.
    "We are very excited to work with the Palm Foundation to advance our
mobile-learning initiatives for autistic individuals using cutting-edge
technology. Our goal is to empower people with autism by giving them the tools
they need to lead independent, confident lives," says Margaret Whelan,
executive director, Geneva Centre for Autism.

    Autism and Visual Learning
    Autism is often referred to as a "spectrum disorder" because symptoms and
characteristics can present themselves in a variety of combinations, ranging
from mild to severe. <a href="">Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)</a>, such as
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Asperger syndrome, are lifelong
neurodevelopmental disorders that typically affect a person's ability to
communicate, form relationships and respond appropriately to their social
environment. As many as one in every 165 Canadian children has a form of
autism, and one in 10 Canadians will be touched by autism in their
lifetime. (1)
    Individuals with autism are known to have strong visual-learning
capabilities and benefit from visual communication tools. The touch-screen
technology, agenda, contacts and other organizational tools and functions
associated with Palm handhelds are highly visual and align with the needs of
many autistic individuals.
    Without the help of visual supports in day-to-day life, individuals with
autism may experience a high level of anxiety in social situations or when
they transition from one activity to another. They often carry printed cue
cards and social scripts to help remember appropriate social behaviours. For
example, a social script can give cues about how to start a conversation with
a classmate in the cafeteria or greet someone on the street.

    Rachel Cohen
    Twenty-five-year-old Rachel Cohen, who has been diagnosed with Asperger
syndrome, received a Palm Z22 handheld as part of Geneva Centre's Phase I
pilot program. She recently traded in her Z22 for a new Palm T/X. Rachel lives
on her own and uses her handheld for everything, from managing her finances to
keeping track of her bowling scores. In an anxious moment, she might play a
game on her Palm handheld to help her relax. She also uses the device to take
notes for a pet column she writes for her apartment building's newsletter.
    "It keeps me organized and it's great to have all my contacts in one
place. I am good at losing papers and forgetting appointments," says Rachel.
"The colour-coding really helps me see at a glance what I have coming up, and
the note pad is great because I'm trying to learn Hebrew. I can write a Hebrew
word and the translation on the screen, so I can review it any time and learn
it. I keep my Palm T/X with me all the time; it's something I can always count
    In addition to helping teens and young adults with autism learn how to
organize their day and remember daily tasks and school assignments, the Geneva
Centre's new e-Learning program will reduce the need for paper cue cards by
importing pictures, symbols, words and social scripts onto Palm handhelds,
offering teens particularly a more discrete, tech-savvy approach to managing
their autistic symptoms.
    "Participants in Phase I of the pilot program have given us positive
feedback about their use of Palm technology. The ease of access to electronic
cues and prompts from Palm handhelds has given them a greater sense of
independence, thus increasing their quality of life," says Whelan. "We've seen
the potential and look forward to continued development of the e-Learning
program to help even more of our clients."
    "Our work with Geneva Centre for Autism represents the Palm Foundation's
goals and ideals in action," says Janice Keay, director of marketing, Palm
Canada. "Palm is known for helping to create simple, accessible, mobile
solutions for life's everyday challenges. Individuals with autism face
significant hurdles that illustrate the need for innovative solutions and
creative partnerships between technology makers and education providers. This
is about breaking down stigmas and furthering people's sense of independence."

    About Geneva Centre for Autism
    Celebrating 33 years of service, Geneva Centre for Autism is an
international leader in the development and delivery of clinical intervention
services and training programs. The Centre provides critically needed services
for children and young adults with ASD through direct intervention,
counseling, information, and support services to more than 3,200 individuals
and their families in Toronto, Peel, Halton, Dufferin, Simcoe and York
regions. The Centre's reach extends to more than 18,000 people through its
Training Institute that provides education and training to parents/caregivers
and professionals across the country.
    For more information about autism, please visit the Geneva Centre online

    About Palm, Inc.
    Palm, Inc. is a global leader and innovator of easy-to-use mobile
products that simplify people's lives and help them stay connected on the go.
The company offers a range of products - including Palm(R) Treo(TM) and
Centro(TM) smartphones, Palm handhelds, services and accessories - to meet the
needs of consumers, mobile professionals and businesses.

    (1) Source: Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network, CAIRN

    Palm, Treo and Centro are among the trademarks or registered trademarks
owned by or licensed to Palm, Inc. All other brand and product names are or
may be trademarks of, and are used to identify products or services of, their
respective owners.

For further information:

For further information: Laura Butcher, Jill Yetman, Environics
Communications for Palm Canada, (416) 969-2766, (416) 969-2722,,; Margaret Whelan, Karen
Gauci, Geneva Centre for Autism, (416) 322-7877 ext. 244, 248,,

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