Computer recommendations

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MF4129

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My mom has bulbar ALS and needs a new computer. Right now she has use of her hands but they are quite shaky. Can anyone give me recommendations on a good computer model for someone with ALS?
Thank you for your help.
 

lgelb

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What was her last computer? Is she looking for a desktop or laptop? What kinds of things does she do on it? Does she still speak? When PALS can no longer operate a keyboard, options include dictation/voice control, a head mouse if they can move their neck, a tongue/chin mouse if they can't, eye gaze if they don't have any muscles that can operate a switch. iPads and iPhones can also be operated similarly. The other thing to consider is how close she is to needing a wheelchair and what capabilities she will need outside the home.

As for Mac vs. Windows, you will find some of each in terms of users here. Either can be configured according to her preferences, and supports each option I listed, through a switch interface such as Tecla, built-in accessibility settings, or a USB port that an alternative mouse plugs into. Whatever screen(s) she reads on, since ALS affects head movement, she may need a larger screen than she has had before, or a screen raised or mounted to a different height.

Best,
Laurie
 

wishmobbing

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My boyfriend made some good experiences with an iPad with switch control. It's light and easily positioned on a stand. He could use it reclining in his power wheelchair. Before that he mostly used a regular laptop with a head mouse. Very intuitive as long as the head is freely movable.
 

MF4129

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Thanks for the responses. She has used an iPad and apple laptop previously. She can still talk but only for short periods.
 

lgelb

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Since it sounds like for now she has some muscles that will work reliably for a while, switch control as Wish mentions, where a muscle activates a switch, or a head mouse (SmartNav Head Tracker) if she has good neck movement, are possibilities. There is an eye gaze solution for Mac laptops if it comes to that later.

You may want to check with her clinic and/or the Minnesota assistive technology agency for loaners to try, as well as look at Apple resources. Always price-shop and look for free loans first.
 

EricInLA

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On the same topic, if I may. . . keyboarding is getting to be tough for me as my right hand muscles continue to decline, so I think it's time that I get serious about dictation and voice control. Right now I use 2 desktops PCs - one at home, and another at the office, though I'm considering switching to a laptop PC. My two questions: as MF4129 asked, are there some computer models that are better for assistive technology than others? And is there a particular voice control program that works well for us folks? My computer comes with such a feature, but it's not very intuitive and I gotta believe there's a better option.
 

Nikki J

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People who can should see their augmentative communications clinic. I recently heard John Costello who started the ALS program mgh uses speak. He said everyone is so very different in their needs. I am also consistently amazed at what they hve to offer. He also pointed out that using insurance for your communication device shouldn’t happen early because sees people who got the wrong thing. I realie this isn’t what anyone here is asking but it probably holds for things you buy yourself. If you are interested in speech options I also encourage you to google John. He is at children’s Boston - he has a lot of videos and there are resources on the children’s ALS communication program website ( John originally developed a communication resource for Children who wereabout to have major surgeries and end up in icu unable to speak. Someone from mgh ALS clinic asked him about doing something for PALS and a pilot program turned into a full fledged clinic. ). I know other clinics have places they refer to so ask. Like with everything else early is best
 

wishmobbing

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Eric, it's probably not so much about computer hardware but about input hardwear (head mouse, light-weight switches...) and software for voice recognition.
@JimInVA could maybe chime in, as his dear PALS used to do a lot of E-Mail communication by voice.
 

Jimi

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A free program for head tracking via Webcam on windows called Enable Viacam allows full computer control and is excellent. The same developer made a version for android called Eva Facial Mouse Pro. Both work extremely well once you get used to it. I've been using for years.
 
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JimInVA

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@EricInLA - Darcey had great success using Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional. Two important parts to this - (1) use the Pro version of the software as it is much more forgiving and accurate and (2) use one of their recommended headsets. We used a Sennheiser SD-BS-US... and it worked well. They may have new versions now available.

Darcey would ask to be "connected" to her computer. I'd pull the wireless headset off of its charging station, place it on her head and position the microphone in front of her mouth. She could then do anything with the computer, by voice, that she'd previously needed mouse and keyboard to do. If there is anything I can help you with, please let me know.

As an aside... I'm retiring in July. I'm attending a 50th High School Reunion in Tacoma, WA at the end of August. After that, my 33 year old daughter and I are taking my (yet to be completed) expedition vehicle (like a truck camper on steroids) and will head back to begin a tour of the west coast... starting back in WA, driving through OR and into CA. I lived in Norwalk until I was 9 and want to drive by my old home to show my daughter where my memories began.

While in the LA area, I'll be meeting up with my son's college roommate and best friend (and my 2nd son), and my son (who will fly out from NY to join in). I have a memory of my first fishing trip as an 8 year old and fishing from a barge offshore (we boarded a boat at the end of a pier... maybe Redondo... which took us out to the barge). The first fish I caught was a barracuda that was longer than I was tall. And that cemented my love for fishing! If you have any recommendations for us, please do share!!

My best, always...

Jim
 

old dog

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I haven't got a good answer for your question, but have one of my own. I use a Chromebook for communication, as my speech is very limited. I got the Chromebook because it's fairly inexpensive, lightweight, and had the longest battery life of any laptop at the time I purchased it. Battery life is important to me, as I use the device to communicate at medical appointments. I still have fairly good hand dexterity, although my typing is slow. I use a free text to speech app called "Tell Me" which works very well. I've been unable to find a similar free app for Windows for my desktop computer. Does anyone know if such a thing is available?
 

Jimi

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I use speech assistant aac for android and it is good. I also access my phone with my windows pc thru vysor or the windows app phone link. I've heard Balkabolka, free for windows is OK, but I haven't tried it
 

old dog

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Thanks, Jimi. I'll look at Balkabolka.
 
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