1999 Conference Proceedings

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Dana Bertrand, MA
Assistive Technology, Inc.
850 Boylston St.
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
Voice/Messages: (617) 731-4900
FAX: (617)731-5201
E-mail: dbertrand@assistivetech.com

This presentation will focus on strengths of the Freestyle (TM) computer and Companion (TM) software as evaluation tools for clinicians and educators. These tools serve as an ideal evaluation solution as all of the input methods, personalized settings, software programs, and environmental control features are contained within a single portable device. Equipped with built in options such as a touch screen, switch ports, and ports for alternative keyboards and pointers, this Macintosh computer may be accessed in a variety of ways to determine which access method provides the user with maximum independence in communication, learning, entertainment, and control over their environment. Universal design brings a range of access options to the clinician serving children and adults with a wide range of special needs. In addition, portability allows the clinician to benefit from these multiple avenues of access while serving clients in their homes, in schools, and in center based settings.

The universal design of the Freestyle allows for the creation of an unlimited number of configurations which resemble many evaluation situations and evaluation tools encountered during assistive technology screenings. Sample configurations will be demonstrated and discussed for a variety of user groups. For example, assessing children and adults with significant motor impairments may warrant a trial on access through switches. Children who have not yet developed intentional communication or are just learning cause- effect relationships, may require a simple configuration while accessing materials through the touch screen. Because we cannot anticipate the needs of each individual, access to the wide variety of options offered by the Freestyle is essential.

Once a decision has been made to evaluate an individual in need of some type of assistive technology, determining the access method becomes an essential step in configuring the functional design for each individual. In addition, readiness skills and skills relating to sensory modality (e.g., visual and listening skills) are targeted and assessed in order to determine how materials should be presented to the user.

Companion provides clinicians with a solution bundle which enables them to obtain baseline measures for their clients visual, listening, and motor skills as well as pinpointing optimal presentation mediums for the clients they serve. In addition, Companion offers clinicians the potential to develop customized screens according to the data they collect using the evaluation application. This will help the clinician teach clients to live, learn, and communicate by presenting them with a customized, personalized, and flexible tool used to promote user independence.

The solution bundle is made up of a series of Companion screens containing contents for Exploring Your Looking Skills, Exploring Your Listening Skills, and Exploring Your Motor Skills. Some areas that will be addressed in the looking skills assessment include: optimum font sizes, highlight size, number of targets per page, figure ground, and object presentation within a scene. Listening skills may include features such as determining optimum volumes, voice preferences, and comprehension of synthesized voices. For auditory scanners, this section may also include assessment of the type of feedback a user prefers (beep, voice, etc.). Finally, motor skills may be assessed in activities such as range of motion tasks, and access method tasks. During this session, these assessment tools will be discussed and demonstrated along with samples that have been gathered from clinicians and educators in the field.

This session will conclude with opportunities for participants to ask questions and engage in hands on exploration of the evaluation tools as time allows.

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