1999 Conference Proceedings

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LEARNING DISABILITIES AND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY: CHOOSING AND USING TECHNOLOGY AS A CREATIVE LEARNER

CHRISTOPHER M. LEE
TOOLS FOR LIFE / GEORGIA ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOLGY PROJECT
2 PEACHTREE ST. NW 35-422
ATLANTA, GA 30303
(404) 657-3081
(404)657-3086 / FAX
TFL2@AMERICA.NET / EMAIL
GATFL.ORG / WWW

CAROLYN PHILLIPS
TOOLS FOR LIFE / GEORGIA ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOLGY PROJECT
2 PEACHTREE ST. NW 35-411
ATLANTA, GA 30303
(404) 657-3057
(404)657-3086 / FAX
TFL6@AMERICA.NET / EMAIL
GATFL.ORG / WWW

SESSION DESCRIPTION

This presentation will provide guidance into identifying and utilizing appropriate technology for persons with learning disabilities. Topics will include: What instructors need to know about AT; The most effective instruction for individuals with learning disabilities; How to match needs of individuals with available technology; What technology is out there. Through publishing a nationally recognized learning disabilities technology guide, the presenters have a personal perspective on these topics.

ABSTRACT

The appplication of assistive technology (AT) to the field of learning disabilities (LD) is, in fact, so new that there have been only a few scattered efforts to consolidate information and resources in one place.

However, over the last couple of years technological systems that were designed and used by people with physical disabilities have become more user friendly and used by individuals with learning disabilities. Identifying and being trained in the appropriate technology can affect the lives of people with learning disabilities in daily living, whether it's in the classroom, at work, in the home, or in other social settings. Technology provides, in other words, valuable tools for life. The simplicity and ready availability of low-tech devices should not be overlooked. Inexpensive color highlighters, for example, can help individuals with reading difficulties distinguish words that appear the same - like proud, pound, and pond. Providers help the student highlight the troublesome words in different colors and make the reader visually aware of the differences between these words. Such training leads the student to a higher level of awareness of his/her disabilities.

High-tech devices, such as an optical character recognition (OCR) system, provide a means of entering text or printed material directly into a computer by use of a scanner. Once the text has been scanned into the computer, it can be read back to the user by means of a speech synthesizer.

Technology in itself is not the answer to all problems faced by people with learning disabilities or for their service providers. Technology does, however, provide valuable tools for life. Those seeking technological assistance should focus not on the device, but on what the device can do for the individual in need. The fit must be right. The biggest or most expensive may not always be the best fit. The key to selecting the most appropriate tool involves many elements: seeking a thorough team evaluation, finding the resources to obtain the technology, customizing the technology to make the best fit, and providing the time as well as the patience for training.

Because of the rapid advances in technology, the Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technoogy: An Emerging Way to Touch the Future guide was developed by Tools for Life. The Georgia Technology Act Project. has worked to develop a national resource guide to address AT issues in the area of LD. The development of this national guide pulls together important AT resources and information to help consumers, service providers, employers and their circles of support cope with the day to day struggles of dealing with learning disabilities.

This presentaton, Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technology : Choosing and Using Technology as a Creative Learner, will give participants a personal view of how AT can accommodate workplace settings as well as daily living situations. The presentation will examine, through the following case study, answers to the following questions: As an instructor what do you need to know about assistive technology? What is the most effective instruction to use for individuals with learning disabilities? How do you match the needs of the individual with the available technology? What is some of the technology out there?

The presentaton will lead participants to a clearer understanding of how technology can help answer these questions and direct you to selecting the appropriate AT for each individual's needs.

CASE STUDY:

Name: Randy

Age: 36

Diagnosis Learning disabilities, primarily affecting writing.

Randy was born and raised in Georgia. He has an older brother who had few learning problems and completed high school. Recently divorced, Randy is currently living with his parents, both of whom work and have high school diplomas. Randy was never successful in school. He repeated the fourth and sixth grades and dropped out when he was in the eighth grade. He is practically a nonreader and has extremely limited writing skills. He realizes that his learning problems are partly to blame for his failed marriage. He had to depend on his wife to complete job aplications for him, to handle all household budget matters, to read restaurant menus, etc. They delayed having children while Randy searched for a job that would be secure and steady enough to support a family.

The most successful job Randy has ever had is driving a Mac truck for a local trucking company. He has had difficulty with this job, however, because of his lack of writing skills. He relies on his good memory to get directions from people along the way because he cannot read a map, and he has developed many creative ways to get people to read road signs and other roadsice infromation for him. He has made many mistakes through the years, however, and the trucking firm is calling on him less and less to drive.

Randy and his father have recently gone in together to buy a convenience store near their house. The plans are for Randy to run the store, with his father helping as needed. Randy very much wants to be successful in this new job venture, so he has come to your Adult Basic Education class to increase his writing skills. He feels that his math skills are adequate.

A screening interview seems to indicate that Randy is of average intelligence. His oral communication skills are good. He seems very personable and motivated.

Spelling ability was at a third grade level. While reading recognition was at a 7th grade level, Randy was extremely slow at decoding. Reading comprehension was at third grade level, possibly because he read so slowly.

How will you help Randy increase his reading and writing skills so that he can run his store and become less dependent on others?

Strengths:

Weaknesses:


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