Leveling the Playing Field Assistive Technology Solutions By: Lacey Toothman
- Jamarlin is an 8 year old student who functions in the moderately intellectually disabled range. He has a great deal of fine/gross motor delays due to his Cerebral Palsy. Jamarlin is nonverbal. What about Jamarlin?
How can Jamarlin learn if he can not talk?
If Jamarlin can not talk, and his fine motor difficulties do not allow for him to write, then how can he be assessed?
How can Jamarlin spend time in a general education classroom if he functions more than 2 standard deviations below the norm?
How can he be expected to make progress towards the same state standards as his similar aged peers?
The Answer! There are three words that can answer each question on the previous slide. 1. Accommodations 2. Modifications 3. Assistive Technology The following slides are going to focus on #3: Assistive Technology!
Assistive Technology and Law IDEA 2004 is the current piece of legislation that guides the education of students with disabilities. Under IDEA, Assistive Technology (AT) is defined as: Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities A student’s need for AT must be considered annually and documented by the IEP team of every student who is served special education services.
What does it matter? AT puts students on a level playing field with their peers. Take Jamarlin, for example, he is unable to talk. Jamarlin may have access to an augmentative communication device with voice output in order to communicate with others. The device in this picture is called a TechTalk. It allows for the student to touch one of the squares to communicate wants and needs. It can be set up with 10 different overlays and channels, so really the student can communicate 10 overlays x 8 pieces of information on each overlay… so 80 things. These overlays can be changed from day to day based on what class the student will attend or what content is covered in the class.
What else does it matter? Okay, so now, Jamarlin, who is nonverbal, can easily communicate his basic wants and needs to others who may not understand his modified sign language that he uses very effectively in his special education classroom. Jamarlin is now able to be in a setting where his special education teacher is not always present. Jamarlin can now be included with his general education peers for a portion of the day. This is called inclusion.
And… what else? When an IEP team looks at where a child with a disability is best served, under IDEA 2004, they must consider LRE or Least Restrictive Environment. A continuum of placements must be considered and the one that is least restrictive (or keeps them separated from nondisabled peers the least), yet still allows for the most appropriate education is the one that must be chosen. Before Jamarlin had his communication device, he had to be served all day in a separate, self-contained classroom (a more restrictive environment) because he was not able to communicate needs. Now Jamarlin has access to AT that once trained in, will allow for him to join his nondisabled peers in the general education setting (a less restrictive environment) for parts of the day without the support of a special education teacher. This is great for Jamarlin!
Fine/Gross Motor Deficits If you remember, Jamarlin also has many motor difficulties stemming from his Cerebral Palsy. There are AT to help meet his needs in these areas as well. It can be something no tech like a pencil grip to high tech such as touch screen computer or an adaptive computer mouse to allow for easier manipulation of the computer.
AT resources There are many online resources available for AT. The Georgia Project for Assistive Technology breaks down different areas of need such as communication, mobility, reading, self-help, behavior, and math and compiles a list of AT ideas for those areas. http://www.gpat.org/resources.aspx
AT Ever Changing Assistive Technology is continuously changing and improving. Just this week, The University of Georgia was awarded a 1.2 million dollar grant to develop iSkills, what has been described as a step by step guide though daily tasks and will be downloaded as an application on iPod, iPhone, or iPad and designed specifically for people who have autism. It seems very neat. Read more here: http://www.uga.edu/news/artman/publish/100929_iSkills.shtml
For more… If you every have AT questions, it would be best to ask a special educator, 504 coordinator, or even an intervention specialist within your school. Some counties, including Bulloch County, have AT specialists within the county.