Week 4 – Textbook, Chapters 1, 2 & 4

Throughout these three chapters in Computer Resources for People with Disabilities examples of people needing and benefiting from assistive technology are given. I’d like each of you to share some similar information. Tell us, briefly, about one person (student, peer, parent, grandparent, family member, etc.) who is using or has used some sort of assistive technology (it can be low tech, medium/elementary tech or high tech) to be successful at some things that they could not do otherwise. How did the AT improve their functional abilities, achievement and/or personal independence? Are there still problems that AT has not solved?

Read what everyone is telling us and share additional solutions and suggestions. This is a chance to brainstorm together and learn from each other.


22 thoughts on “Week 4 – Textbook, Chapters 1, 2 & 4”

  1. Some AT being used by a family member with age related macular degeneration includes 1) a large button black on white keyed telephone with a task lamp nearby, 2) a large number black number on white face clock. Originally this was not useful as the person who bought it for her did not consider the angle of the sun and put it on the wall where she thought it would look good rather than what was visually helpful, 3) locating a flashlight near the door to the garage so she could locate the keyhole, 4) using large print wordfind and other puzzle books, 5) using black ink wider tip pens.

  2. Of course the AT does not solve the ARM (age related macular degeneration). She cannot see faces or details. What AT can do for her is allow at least some tasks to be more comfortable and give her the confidence that she can do most of her daily tasks independently even without the great vision she once had.

  3. The AT devide that really helps our middle school students that continue to struggle with getting words on paper is the Alphasmart. It is amazing what this can do for a student that hates to write, but all of the sudden he or she produces a full page report and they are so happy and their self esteem goes thru the roof. We have students begging to use them and that is awesome to see. We also use the talking software on the computer to help with the written work. This really helps our lower functioning kids produce a better quality of writing that they could not have with just pencil and paper.

  4. I am able to see many different uses of assistive technology, and I get to watch students grow as they learn to master their devices and really find out what works for them. One particular student of mine uses a Palmtop device with the Portable Impact speaking software loaded. This student is nearly impossible to understand without the device, has few friends, struggles to carry on a conversation, and is unable to ask appropriate questions. In implementing this new device, this student has gained some independence and confidence in social situations, is learning to ask and answer questions appropriately, and is gaining friends due to the ability to communicate. There are still many problems associated with the device though. For instance, the student will often “blurt” out a phrase that is inappropriate in the middle of instruction. I have observed her using the “good morning” button in her afternoon reading class, and the “see you later alligator” button during tests. I think through proper training and a little maturity, this student will greatly benefit from this AT.

  5. I can relate to what blemmon was saying above about students using speech devices inappropriately at times. I’ve had students seem to just play with the devices. I think that it takes lots of different people to encourage the students to use the devices appropriately (staff members, peers, parents, etc). I’m trying to get carryover with PECS and visual schedules with an autistic student right now. It seems to really help this student’s behavior to be able to request using PECS, giving him some control over his activities. Visual schedules also help his behavior, since he knows what is coming up next. I just have difficulty getting staff members to use the systems consistently and I don’t have enough time in my day to do much training.

  6. most of my students use personal and/or room soundfield systems. they are very helpful in noisy classroom situations. the room soundfield hand held microphone has proven to be very beneficial not only for the students with hearing loss but all of the students. the students, as young as first grade, adapt very quickly to the idea that they do not share an answer until they have the microphone. this cuts down on answers being yelled out which causes trouble for the students with hearing loss and also gives a visual to them as to which student is talking. while these devices are an initial expense they last for quite a while and generally do not require much maintenance.

  7. Commenting about the book “Computer resources for People with Disabilities”
    (Chapters 1, 2, and 4)

    Chapter 1, Creating a Vision. This chapter provides constructive and positive advice. It addresses the issue that if you are going to use technology to allow people with disabilities to have control over their lives, we must follow steps that guide them how to know and organize the information required achieving that independence as much as it is possible. I find encouraging the point of view that asks us to start thinking about disabilities in terms of function or functional limitations. Categories are in themselves very limiting.
    Chapter 2, Achieving my goals. This chapter emphasizes that it is important to determine very clearly why we need some specific Assistive Technologies (AT) and not different ones. It also underlines that it is essential to evaluate if a low tech vs. high tech device is needed. Furthermore, the way is laid out helps to outline the goals that may be achieved using one or another. While it is accurate that we ended up using low tech tools to work with children with disabilities, it might be that we had an ambiguous approach about when to move from a low tech to a high tech tool. Such decision must ideally be driven by the child’s growth and development in physical and cognitive abilities. Funding for relevant technologies must be a secondary consideration, give the opportunity to significantly expand the possibilities of the people with disabilities. I believe this is the right approach that could make a difference for many children or adults.
    Chapter 4, Selecting technology. The most important question is: What products are best for me? I feel that it is imperative to work as a team to determine what technology is going to be used and what are the goals and the schedules to achieve them. All these resources entertain investments in terms of time and money and it wise to have an initiative that lead to the best results that can be expected. The worksheets included in this part of the book might lead to accomplishing a good plan, after considering the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, and where the technology will be needed.
    I have been using PECS with Adrian and Martin, but I believe we reach a point in which they will benefit for trying a high tech aac device.

  8. Assistive technology is an amazing way to open doors that otherwise might be left closed. As was reported in my original entry, my father was privy to then cutting-edge technology when ALS robbed him of the use of his voice. He was able to communicate via use of a diode placed above his eyebrow and a computer scanning program. It was such a blessing for all.
    I have observed many, students and adults, who have utilized a wide range of assistive technology…from simple pictures to elaborate augmentative communication devices. While all these serve as tremendous benefit for our students, I frequently see one issue that remains confounding for me. Many of the individuals I encounter are resistant to the use of assistive technology. For most, it is the stigma they attach to the technology and how they view their peers’ perception. Regardless of how the technology is presented, several of the students I encounter view any assistive technology as calling attention to their disability. While the majority of technology is quite simple and discrete, the student’s resistance creates a compounded situation that frequently could be avoided. Factors that contribute to this include adolescence and the student’s desire to be like everyone else. How have others handled the issue of AT resistance?

  9. I’ve been off of work for two weeks due to an injury that left me without the use of my dominant hand/arm. In order to achieve some level of independence, I’ve started using some AT at home. I have a battery operated toothbrush, a one-handed can opener, magnet clips that allow me to put on my own jewlry. I still have a long way to go before I’m completely independent, but these items have helped a lot! When I go back to work on Monday, I plan to get a separate keyboard and mouse for my laptop. This will allow me to locate the keyboard in a comfortable position for one-handed typing. I guess I’m a good example that AT doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to make a big difference in someone’s life.

  10. I have a student with CP. He uses switches, intellikeys with key guard, name stamp, thumb abduction splint to keep his hand open for functional use, pencil grips, a slant board, and various pencil/crayon/scissor modifications. We are in the process of improving his ability to quickly get on/ off the internet for games (which is a reward for him). He has become more willing to participate in academics because of the access to the internet as a reward and he appears to like the options when he is asked to do pencil/paper tasks. This student also uses several augmentative devices for communication. At this point, he has been a little more stubborn with this area. The speech therapist has her hands full.

  11. I did an assessment for a young adult who is blind and autistic. He used a talking watch to tell time so he can get to appointments on time and so he can turn on favorite TV shows at the right time. He uses an old fashioned casset tape player to tape sounds in his environment (washing machine sounds, traffic, etc.). Playing these tapes is soothing to him and serves as a stress management technique for him. This helps him avoid behavior problems.

  12. I remember one student that I got a “Go Talk” and a “Seven Level Communication Builder” for her to use. The student would wear the “Go Talk” to engage conversation with other peers. I remember the look on her face when she would push the icon “Will you play with me?” and the peers were so interested in her device. She also used the “Seven Level Communication Builder” to form longer phrases/sentences to indicate her wants/needs. This student has surpassed this level of AT and is ready for a more dynamic device now. I really wish I would have started earlier and pushed for a more dynamic communication device with her.

  13. I have to strongly agree with what SRAGO said about the AlphaSmart. I find it to be the most easily introduced high tech item. I have had a little trouble with making the older style compatible with the new printers. I am hoping this will be easily fixed by an adapter, but still waiting for that to arrive. I loved the worksheets 2A& 4A. Organization is not my strength. If I have a copy of 2A when I visit a student in class I can make notes to help me remember what items the student needs no intevention and some areas for further exploration.

  14. My mother has benefited from assistive technology in a couple of ways. REAL (Resources for Enriching Adult Living http://www.realservicesinc.com/) services has been extremely helpful in assessing her needs as well as finding the right assistive technology that will help. She has the typical things such as a walker shower stool and so on, but there was one form of technology that has been especially helpful. She has been provided with a prescription dispensing machine. This machine is filled with her prescriptions (in little plastic cups with lids for morning and afternoon or night) and when it is time to take her medications, it alerts her with a message (“Time to take your medications.”) and then she has to push a red button to have it dispense the medicine. If she does not push the red button within 45 minutes, it sends a signal to the company, and then they call me to let me know she has not taken her medication. For her, it has been very helpful since she suffers a form of dementia and tends to forget to take her medication, or possibly take it twice. Since she has been using this machine, I can tell that she has been taking her medications as prescribed, and her health has improved. Whereas before she would miss many of her dosages, and her health was not good.

  15. The majority of my students use FM systems in the classrooms. Oneof my buildings now use FM systems in all of the 1st and 2nd grade classrooms after seeing the benefits when it was used for one of my students. Next year all of the 3rd grade classes will have an FM system. This has been great for my students, it doesn’t single anyone out. The teachers are very good about making sure the mic is passed around for the students to use. Of course, the students enjoy talking into the mic.

  16. I have been using assistive technology with several of my students in the computer lab. This software is very low tech yet it has been a very successful technology tool. The software is called “The Help Read Program” and it’s free. HELP Read™ downloads on your computer and it reads along with the student while they are reading. This has been very helpful for my slow, struggling, shy or speech impaired students. I’ve not only seen improvement in the way the students read it has sharpened their comprehensive skills as well. The program is digital so it downloads quickly. Another advantage with this software is that your audio selections are bookmarked and your position is saved when you turn off your audio player. So don’t worry about stopping your book in the middle of a chapter. When you’re ready to listen again, your selection will resume right where you left it.

  17. I had a student who had a 7 level communicator, but was unable to carry it due to weakness and decreasing strength in her arms. I was able to get her a “Go Talk 20”. It is light enough for her to carry when she is mainstreamed in her regular 3rd grade classroom. We are looking at getting her a light device she can wear on her hip when she is outside at recess to futher increase her ability to communicate with her regular ed peers. I am currently looking for something that is lightweight, but high tech enough so she is not locked in to only a few subjects. It is a challenge because it seems the high tech you go, the heavier the equipment is. She is ambulatory and has poor upper body strength to carry around many of the devices I have looked at. If anyone has any suggestions, I will gladly try them!

  18. AT provides independence! that is a concept hard to understand for some people because it is time concuming at the beginning. Getting familiar with aa AT device can be time consuming and most of us “do not have the time”. I do not think this is a valid excuse since we need to think about the future of our student and get him/her as skilled as we can.
    The readings and formats are going to be a good resource for my practice and the AT team.

  19. One student that really stands out in my mind is a 3 year old girl in one of the preschool classes who I do not know very well (I am new to my school and she is not receiving speech services). I am reasonably certain that she has CP, she appears to be of at least average intelligence and her stature and motoric limitations render her unable to walk. Each day I am amazed at her dexterity and fine-tuning with use of a joystick to operate her power wheelchair.
    One comment that stuck out to me was that of Tracy Spencer, particularly with staff training and persistence. One major obstacle that I run into is that staff will often “give up” on use of the AT (both low- and high-tech) if it does not provide immediate gratification. Still, I perform ongoing training and modeling with the hope that I can change perceptions by allowing the kids to achieve!

  20. I attended a conference offered by ABLENET many years ago and the presenter said that all children, especially the younger ones, will “play” with AT devices when they are introduced as a way of familiarizing themselves with the device. She encouraged allowing a period of exploratory play before attempting training on any new piece of equipment. I think the younger our students are, developmentally, the more time they may spend in the exploratory phase.

    I have a student who uses a Dynavox and visual choice making on a dry erase board to do her work. Her classmates in the gen.ed. classes quickly picked up on her ability to scan and make visual choices to include her in conversations, games,and activities. Her classmates would offer her choices by holding up their hands and having the studentlook at the hand that corresponded to her answer/comment. I thought this was a wonderful, kid friendly way for them to include her and another example of low tech often being the best way to go.

    My other example of AT helping improve someone’s life is about my father who suffered a stroke resulting in a loss of visual field. His low vision specialist/optometrist was able to use a prizm in his glasses to shift his image focal point which filled in his missing visual field. My father was able to drive short distances allowing him to continue to do his shopping, pay his bills, and see his friends.

  21. I have used AT with several different VI students on many occasions. The one AT that really made a difference for one of my students was the light box. This student had limited vision but could see colors and larger shapes. Placing her material on the light box illuminated it enough for her to complete all of her tasks.

  22. A few years ago I worked as the “audio man” at my church. Among my duties was to make available a personal listening device: ear phones and a small amplifying device worn around the neck that was able to pick up wireless what was being said over the PA system to any parishioners who had difficulty hearing Many of the older persons loved these as they could control the sound level to their optimal level and hear just what was being picked up by the microphone at the pulpit. Even those with hearing aids prefered the personal listening device because they didn’t have to deal with all the background noise that their hearing aids would pick up. I guess I understand at the time that this was assistive technology, but after reading the book chapters assigned I understand what we were providing in a new way. These people really depended on these listening devices because it provided a real “fix” for them, even though it was in the narrow context of the hour and a half on Sunday mornings. It helped them to feel part of the group of worshipers instead of feeling left out during the church service. This was great low cost assistive technology we were providing them and it worked for them at the right time and at the right place to make their worship experience much better.

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