2002 Conference Proceedings

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Self Determination and AT, A Successful Combination

Penny Reed
Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative
357 N. Main St.
Amherst, WI 54406
Phone: 715/824-6415
Fax: 715/824-5323

Gayl Bowser
Oregon Technology Access Program
1871 NE Stephens St.
Roseburg, OR 97470
Phone: 541/440-4791
Fax: 541/957-4808

For the last decade assistive technology has played an increasingly large role in helping students with disabilities accomplish functional life skills and related tasks. In some cases the assistive technology is prescribed early in life with little input from the child. As the child matures new assistive technology may be needed or become available. In other cases assistive technology may be considered for a student who has never used it before. When students are capable of indicating preferences and expressing opinions, they can and should play an active role in the decision to use assistive technology and in its selection and acquisition. How can we make that happen?

Hey! Can I Try That? is a free booklet designed for teens and preteens. It explains assistive technology in a simple straightforward manner and helps the student to focus on when and why he or she might want to use assistive technology. The booklet can be downloaded from www.edtechpoints.org.

Hey! Can I Try That? begins with several examples of assistive technology tools that can be used for typical school task such as reading, writing, and studying. The reader is told that learning about new kinds of technology can be "fun and exciting. It can also help you to do new things that you may have thought were too hard for you." The authors point out that the most important thing is for the student to know what he or she wants to do that they cannot do now or would like to be able to do more easily.

The booklet is divided into seven sections:
* Taking the Lead: Self Determination and Assistive Technology
* Doing my Schoolwork: What's the Problem?
* Figuring it Out: What's the Situation?
* Trying New Things: Would I Use this AT?
* Making a Plan: What will I Use and How will I Use It?
* Using AT: What Needs to be Done?
* Reviewing the Plan: How is my AT Working for Me?

Each section has a few short paragraphs of information for the student. These paragraphs explain the situation and highlight the things that the student needs to be thinking about. The points are further illustrated by two case studies. One about Chuck who is in fifth grade and has significant problems with writing and the other about Pat who is in 8th grade and has reading difficulties which interfere with her ability to complete her class assignments.

Also in each section is a worksheet that the student can use to think through the issues at each point. In Doing my Schoolwork, the worksheet asks the student to describe:
* Classes that are the hardest for me
* In my classes, the tasks that are the hardest (like copying from the board, understanding the book, writing math problems, etc.) are
* When I need to take a test, the hardest part is
* Taking tests would be easier if I could
* Ideas I have about tools that might help me
* Things I want to tell the teachers and others about my schoolwork
* Questions I want to ask

The worksheet in each section is specifically geared toward the issues being addressed from first thinking about AT, to trying it out, planning for its use, and later reviewing how it is meeting the identified need.

The booklet can be used independently by a student who is capable of doing so. It can also be read to the student by a parent, teacher or sibling. It can be broken into smaller chunks and discussed orally with a student who needs to deal with smaller amounts of information. The overall goal is to promote self determination and independent decision making.

Hey! Can I Try That? includes additional references for parents and teachers:
* Assistive Technology Pointers for Parents (http://www.edtechpoints.org)
* Education Tech Points: A Framework for Assistive Technology Planning (http://www.edtechpoints.org)
* Assessing Students' Need for Assistive Technology (http://www.wati.org)
* Student-Led IEPs: A Guide for Student Involvement (http://www.cec.sped.org 
* Take Charge for the Future (Oregon Health Sciences University Center on Self Determination, 800-410-7069)

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