Having a Child with Down Syndrome, Part LXXVII: Scaffolding

Copyright © 2015 Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.

When you have a child with cognitive or physical delays, scaffolding is the cornerstone of independence. Some kids you can just metaphorically throw off the dock and they’ll swim (or they’ll even throw themselves off the dock). Alice can’t be thrown off the dock. Instead we use scaffolding. We try to thoughtfully prepare support that allows her to succeed at a task, then gradually tear the support down until she doesn’t need it. This has been one of my long-term goals with shopping. Some day, I hope she will be able to shop for groceries all by herself. But rather than assume and leave this to chance, I’ve built up scaffolding to help her. Alice’s main tool for shopping is her clipboard.

027I keep a stack of note cards in my car for making lists for her. This is scaffolding since writing her own lists is far beyond her planning and motor skills. I decided to move some of the big scaffolding out of the way and add in some smaller bits. I did this with technology. I bought an Epson receipt printer (this was a mistake – more on that later) and a Raspberry Pi with a WiFi adapter and set it up as an AirPrint server.


I chose the Epson printer because it has Linux drivers and and the Raspberry Pi is a Linux machine. Epson, however, provides only x86 or x64 CUPS drivers laptop/desktop machines and the Pi uses an ARM, so I needed source code, which Epson also does not provide, nor did they respond to my inquiry with anything more than a polite “sucks to be you”. Fortunately, I guess, this type of task overlaps very heavily with my professional skills so I spent the equivalent of three work days worth of evenings and weekends writing my own CUPS driver, which is here if you want it.

First, I write out a list for her. Wait a minute! Don’t I already do that? Yes, that hasn’t changed. Yet.


Then Alice transcribes it into her iPad:


And then she prints it


And puts it into her clipboard, ready to go shopping.


Why is she using a clipboard? Why not just bring her iPad with you? Because when (not if) Alice drops the iPad from the shopping cart, or leaves it behind, or it gets stolen, we are out the cost of an iPad and replacement iPads aren’t as cheap as the printer. I could have used our inkjet printer, but that printer is usually out of ink and I have little incentive to replace it as my son has been dedicated to his hobby of printing us out of house and home. Since this only prints in black and white and in narrow little strips, there is little incentive for wasting media.

Meantime, Alice really likes the process and was very happy to have succeeded at it.

It’s interesting to note that as Alice is typing, she is chunking. I noted that she naturally grouped double letters, but she also chunked the final ‘se’ in ‘cheese’, so it’s not just doubles. Neat!


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