2000 Conference Proceedings

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EXPERIENCE THE POWER OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AT HOME


Patricia Wright, M.A.
AbleNet Inc.
1081 Tenth Avenue S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55414-1312

With the new assistive technology requirements of IDEA, student's ability to access technology in the school setting is becoming more and more commonplace. As the technology improves and students gain access, their opportunities for learning and participation greatly improve. With the extension of technology enhanced learning opportunities for an increasing number of students in the educational realm, the lack of technology crossover to the home environment is becoming increasingly apparent. As students only have a portion of their day at school, it is vital that this access to technology cross over to the home setting.

The benefits of establishing solid partnerships in program planning with parents has been extensively documented in the literature of special education (Male, 1994). Through this partnership the skills learned by educators for implementing assistive technology in the school setting can be transferred to the parent/care provider to promote increased participation in the home. Parents look to educators for guidance when they are attempting to deal with the challenges presented by a child with disabilities (Dunlap, Robbins & Darrow, 1994).

This presentation will focus on a parent guide that will assist parents in the initial selection of simple technology for their home. As noted above, parents look to educators for guidance in making decisions for their child. The tool being presented is one for which educators should become familiar. Parents indicated a lack of communication or collaboration between home and school regarding technology use as the biggest deterrent to using technology at home (Schwartz, 1993). The guide being presented cannot only be used independently by parents but it also can be a process facilitator for educators to assist parents in making decisions.

The simple technology outlined in the guide includes voice output communication aids, battery operated devices, basic environmental control systems and a variety of switches. It will work from the premise that participation in most activities is possible for any child. Through partial participation and adaptation, activities can become accessible for children with the most significant disabilities. Participation can increase responsibility, foster development of age-appropriate attitudes, and increase self-esteem (Orelove & Sobsey, 1996). The guide was developed in hopes that with support parents could provide their child with as many opportunities for participation at home as there are opportunities at school.

The guide was developed with the underlying assumption that there are no prerequisites for participation and communication. Everyone can communicate and meaningfully interact with the environment and there are no prerequisites to begin training in the use of assistive technology (Kangas & Lloyd, 1988). The document is provided because there are opportunities for all members of families to work and play together. Every child, regardless of their skill level, can actively engage in family routines and activities.

The guide is set up to be family and child centered. Families are taken through a step-by-step process in determining simple technology that would be appropriate for their child at home. The guide is activity based. The first step outlined in the guide involves the parent or care provider selecting activities where increased participation is desired. The following steps lead to discovery of how assistive technology can assist in making the activity more accessible. The final step is determining which particular devices are necessary in order for their child to participate.

The guide is meant to be an idea starter. It is the belief that once parents and care providers have the opportunity to have hands-on experience with simple technology, the parent will become a champion in finding other ways in which to incorporate assistive technology in their home. With increased experience and success, parents will gain confidence in attempting new and unique uses of simple technology, which promote their child's participation and learning.

Dunlap, G. , Robbins, F.R., & Darrow, M.A. (1994). Parents reports of their children's challenging behaviors: Results of a statewide survey. Mental Retardation, 32, 206-212.

Kangas, K. & Lloyd, L. (1988). Early Cognitive Skills as Prerequisites to Augmentative and Alternative Communication Use: "What are we Waiting For?" Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 211-221.

Male, M. (1994). Technology for Inclusion: Meeting the Needs of All Students (160-161). Allyn and Bacon Publishing Company.

Orelove & Sobsey (1996). Educating Children with Multiple Disabilities (151). Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company.

Schwartz, Adele, (1993). Technology Use at Home. Exceptional Parent, 23(9), 36-38.


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