Tuesday, November 29, 2016

North Carolina Assistive Technology Program

The North Carolina Assistive Technology Program was very interesting, the technology they had were useful for all ages and you could see how a program like that would be beneficial to the individuals who know it is there. I liked how they had everything from switch adapted toys, to communication devices and even an adapted book collection for teachers to use. What I liked the most about NC ATP os that they allow you to “check out” the device you want to practice with and test before it is purchased by the individual or by the school system.

                I think my favorite equipment that was shown to us were the switch adapted toys. This was something that never struck me would be something you could adapt for individuals with disabilities. The toys were so easy to adapt, it took a battery interrupter and the cord to hook the switch into. Then depending on the toy, the only thing the user has to do is push the switch to make the toy work. Depending on the toy, you either have to hold the switch down or you push the switch once in order to make the toy function. This is important because if there is an individual who cannot access a toy because they do not have the fine motor skills required to use some of the toys, they now have a way to access them. NC State recently hosted a professional development on how to turn toys into adapted switch toys, especially with it being so close to the holiday season I think this is wonderful for parents who want to give their children the same experience as other students. I was also fascinated by the types of switches she showed us. I did not realize there were so many, I knew that ones like “Big Red” were available but I loved the soft switch that required the lightest touch to use. I liked this one because you could give it to an individual who doesn’t have the same amount of force to push a button like “Big Red”. She also showed us a switch that looked like a joist stick used in video games, I would use this with a student who maybe cannot push down at all but can move their arms side to side. 

                From switches, we moved into communication devices. There was one device in particular I really liked. This was the “Super Talker” which was really nice because it was also a kind of “grow as you grow” device. I mean this because the device had a storage spot on the back to store different number choice options. For example, if the individual receives the device at a young age when they only need to say one or two things there is an option for one or two choices. Then, as the student grows and has more than a two-word vocabulary, the device allows for you to give the student more choices. I believe you could have up to 8 options on this particular device. I liked this because we want students to grow and this device allows us to help them with that without having to replace the device every few years. Another communication device we were shown was very nice because at the top of the device was a row of 5 options for students to choose that you would keep the same no matter how many layers are programmed on the device. For example, on each layer my five options of, “please, thank you, more, I need, and help” would remain the same while the other options in the other rows would change. I like this a lot because you can tailor the layers to exactly what you are working on, while keeping key vocabulary on the device and not having to reprogram the device every time I change layers. She also showed us a kind of PECS system but this was more controlled. I would use this for a student who I eventually want on the PECS system but maybe need to start them off on a very controlled system. This system gave you a flip book that would give you a few options on tabs such as feelings or wants, and after you narrow down to what tab you want, then on that tab there are different options under the major category. I think this because it is consistent and when you need to find a word you can easily get there where as in PECS sometimes I think that words can get lost in the system. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Assessing the Relationship between Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning 

Assistive Technology can be thought of as any device that bridges the gap between the student's skill level and the environment demands. An example of Assistive Technology is that a student with dysgraphia may use a computer with a text-to-talk feature on it in order to allow this student to access his curriculum. Another example of Assistive Technology is that a student with a more severe disability may require a device that they can communicate with by moving their eyes and activating the device to speak the words their eyes fixate on. Eight other examples of Assistive Technology can be found here at Understood.org. Assistive Technology is meant to be the most effective but least invasive for students. For this reason, there is a continuum of Assistive Technology that flows from no technology to high technology, making sure that every student is given the technology that matches their learning style and environment better and is simply used to help them bridge the gap between their skills and the demands of the environment. The video below explains more about Assistive Technology and its uses.

Universal Design for Learning(UDL)  can be thought of as a framework that describes the different ways in which teachers engaged various types of learners by means of technology and instructional delivery. This approach to teaching is especially important for those students who need extra supports and students with disabilities. The Center for Applied Special Technology or CAST explains Universal Design for Learning as a way to optimize teaching for all students, based on what scientists know about the way humans learn and behave. Universal Design for Learning has three major guidelines which are: multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression and multiple means of engagement.  Multiple means of representation involves presenting information in an auditory, visual and tactile way so that all learners are able to access the information. Multiple means of expression involves allowing students the opportunity to display their knowledge in a way that they choose. Lastly, multiple means of engagement involves engaging students in a way that keeps them motivated to learn and work. UDL is important for students with disabilities because the framework reminds teachers that all students learn differently and that teachers should adapt their instruction so that all students can learn. 

We've now covered both Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning independently, it is important that we discuss the relationship between the two. In order to do that, let's walk through an example. The video on the right follows Mason, a student with visual impairments. In this video, you can see that Mason is using his Assistive Technology in order to access his educational curriculum and communicate. This is also how Mason is able to express his knowledge, or a part of the multiple means of expression as a part of the UDL framework. Mason's visual impairments has caused his teacher to think of creative ways to teach Mason in a way that Mason can learn and understand the content his is learning. This is another part of the framework, multiple means of representation.  UDL and Assistive Technology work hand and hand in that UDL is the environment made in the classroom by the teacher that Assistive Technology allows the student to access and learn from. Without the partnership between UDL and Assistive Technology, students would be able to access their environment buy that environment would not be one that was supportive enough for them to learn.