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Mobile solutions

Handheld Palm devices benefit the autistic

TORONTO – Palm Canada has announced a Palm Foundation cash grant and the donation of 100 Palm handhelds and accessories to kick-start a new e-Learning program at the Geneva Centre for Autism, based in Toronto.

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 autism.

The 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 Palm Z22 handhelds.

As part of Phase II, the centre is receiving 100 new Palm T|X handheld devices, 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. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), 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.

“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 at:

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® Treo™ and Centro™ smartphones, Palm handhelds, services and accessories – to meet the needs of consumers, mobile professionals and businesses.