Access to the Curriculum - Part 3

Video Transcript

Hello and thank you for joining us today.

My name is Shawna Benson and I am a Regional Coach for OCALI, Assistant Professor at Urbana University and former classroom teacher for students with multiple disabilities. And I'm Jan Rogers. I'm also a Regional Coach with OCALI and a school-based occupational therapist.

This webinar is the third in a four part series entitled Low Incidence Disabilities: Access to the Curriculum. Low Incidence disabilities are also known by several other names including multiple disabilities, intensive disabilities & severe/profound disabilities. For the purposes here today we will follow the state licensure categories that include mild, moderate and intensive disability types focusing on intensive disabilities.

Today's session is assistive technology and instructional tools for students with Low Incidence disabilities. Many of the tools, supports and services we talk about here in today's session will follow individuals with Low Incidence disabilities throughout their lives into their careers and into their homes. In an effort to support students in building their own enviable life we must introduce students to these supports and services early and provide training that is ongoing for both the student and their team members.

The objectives for today's work are as follows:

  • We will monitor the age-appropriateness of tools, supports and services for all students with Low Incidence disabilities.
  • We want to provide tools, supports and services that offer access to the general curriculum.
  • And we want to match features of tools, instructional supports and technology to the learner's needs.

If you remember back to the last 2 webinars in this series we have explored the wide range of learners who we support who have a Low Incidence classification. If you recall all of these individuals have dreams and future plans. And still we are asking ourselves, 'What is our role in helping to prepare them for their dreams?
This webinar will focus on the roles and responsibilities of school districts, families, educators and communities as it pertains to tools and services that will enable people with Low Incidence disabilities to learn, work, play and live.

It is our responsibility, under the law, to build our knowledge of available tools and services that can enable people with Low Incidence disabilities to access their environments, work, curriculum and daily living.
So what are these tools and services? They are often referred to as assistive technology.

According to IDEA Assistive technology is defined as '...any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability'. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such a device.

IDEA not only defines what AT is but also defines the services to evaluate and implement AT in schools.

In addition IDEA defines the services and training that are needed to implement assistive technologies for a student.

In summary, these are the school district responsibilities regarding AT tools and AT services. You will notice that the first bulleted item is consideration of AT in the IEP. We are now going to talk about this process.

The reauthorization of IDEA in 1997 required IEP teams for the first time to consider assistive technology devices and services for all students with disabilities during their annual IEP meeting. You can see on the slide a picture of the special instructional factors section of an IEP. The team is to consider assistive technology and then acknowledge that consideration of AT by checking the appropriate box on the what does it mean to consider AT?

Unfortunately IDEA does not specify how teams are to accomplish the AT consideration process. Many teams find they lack the basic knowledge and expertise needed to effectively consider and plan for their student's assistive technology needs and as a result many students continue to be underserved in terms of assistive technology. To effectively engage in the consideration process the team should ask a few basic questions to determine the need for further assessment of the student's assistive technology needs.

Questions that teams should be asking about their students might include the following:

1. Is the student able to engage in all areas of the regular education curriculum and student activities at an age-appropriate level? If not, which areas are difficult and is it possible that technology could assist the student in gaining 'independent' access or 'more' access to the curriculum?

2. Does the team already have information contained in the present levels, ETR, formative or summative assessments of the student that can assist in making assistive technology decisions? If so who will be responsible on the team to organize the information so that it can be used in the assistive technology decision-making process?

3. What, if any, additional information is needed about the student to complete the assistive technology decision-making process and who will be assigned to gather that information?

4. Do we need to consider other professionals to provide areas of expertise to engage in the AT decision-making process?

Should you decide that others are needed to appropriately consider and assess a student's AT needs there are a number of team members who may be able to contribute and participate in additional assessments. The recommended team members will vary with each student, depending on the student's needs and abilities and the levels of technology being considered. A team facilitator or leader should be designated who will be responsible for coordinating activities, maintaining timelines, and ensuring that the process continues in a progressive manner. It is important to encourage members to be actively involved in the process.

Once AT consideration has been completed and the team has checked the box, the team should discuss and then document the next steps in AT assessment process. This content should be written into the Specially Designed Services section of the IEP.

This form has several sections that the team will consider.
Not all students will have needs in all of these areas.
If one of the areas considered is not needed the team should note in the blank that the area was considered and is N/A for this particular student. Once the form is completed the meeting can be adjourned and the team members can begin the process of AT assessment.

The first step of AT assessment is to compile information for the needs assessment. The needs assessment should include gathering information about the AT user's life roles and performance areas, activities, tasks that are difficult to perform in relation to the activities, the environment or context where the activities will be preformed and any prior technology history. The second step is to compile information about the student's skills in the areas of sensory, physical, cognitive, and language. The IEP team will likely already have a great deal of the information for the needs assessment and the skills evaluation as part of the information available in the student's ETR, present levels of IEP on the form, summative and formative classroom assessments. If there is still information needed it can be assigned to various team members as appropriate based upon their areas of expertise.

The next step is to specifically identify the student's strengths and needs as discovered in the needs and skills assessments and to match those strengths and needs to assistive technology device characteristics. When this has been done then it is possible to begin thinking about specific devices that possess the device characteristics needed by the user and to begin trials on the selected devices, collect data, and use the data to determine if they do in fact assist the user in the expected way.

When the final device has been chosen there will be a need for someone to train the user, caregiver and educational staff on the device as well as set it up for the user's unique needs. Follow-up and follow-along are also important parts of this process to ensure the device remains in good operating condition and to assist the user and support person in continued training needs.

Additionally, it will be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the assistive technology to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the student. If you notice, one of the steps on the slide is highlighted in red. We are going to take a little more in-depth look about matching user strengths and needs to the device features (this is called feature matching). This is probably one of the most difficult steps in the process for most IEP teams.

A feature match is defined as identifying the various features and characteristics of tools and the needs and strengths of the individual. For example, a pencil is a tool. The characteristics/features of a pencil might include the length, the circumference, the shape, the hardness of the lead, the color of the lead and the eraser. A person's needs and strengths that might relate to the features of this tool would include: the person's dexterity, their fine motor skills, hand strength, visual perceptual needs, pressure they exert and their handedness.

Now let's look at a case profile of a student who is struggling with access to the curriculum related to writing.
Brianna is a 4th grader with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. She is unable to walk independently but moves about her environment in a power wheelchair. She has difficulty holding a pencil and forming letters due to her lack of motor control. She also has difficulty isolating fingers to type. She can press and release large surfaces with either hand if the surface is in a consistent location. Academically she has lower than average grade level skills. She recognizes letters and words but her spelling is poor. She needs to be able to write both at home and school. We have now developed a list of Brianna's skills and needs based largely on what we already know about her as a student.

So what do we do with this information about Brianna?

We begin by matching Brianna's skills and needs to various features of assistive technologies. For example we know that Brianna can't hold a pencil so it is likely she will need some type of computer supported writing. She isn't able to type effectively so she will need some type of alternate access, perhaps switch access since she can press and release a large surface with either hand. She recognizes letters and words so she may benefit from an electronic letter and word bank. Her spelling is poor so word prediction may be helpful. Finally, Brianna needs a solution she can use both at school and at home so her assistive technology needs to be portable so it can travel with her to her various environments.

Once we have determined the appropriate assistive technology features for Brianna then selecting a product with those features is the next step. There are many assistive technology products available for a student with writing challenges. There are adapted pencil grips, special keyboards, portable word processors, customizable writing software and a host of other options. Let's look more closely at the features we discussed for Brianna and use a process of elimination to narrow down the products that may benefit her. Brianna needs computer based writing assistance due to her difficulty manipulating and using writing utensils effectively. We know she isn't able to access a standard keyboard and she also wouldn't be able to use a portable word processor because of her need for alternate access. We also know that her computer solution needs to be portable. Brianna needs some supports for spelling and perhaps grammar. Word banks and word prediction were recommended.

As you can see we are left with a few items that should then be provided to Brianna during equipment and software trials before purchase to determine if those items do improve her active participation in writing activities. While this is clearly a simplified example of the feature matching process it should give you an idea as to how the process might unfold. Additional assessment in this example would likely include more in depth assessment of appropriate alternate access of the computer which would include consideration of various switch types, scanning modes and scanning sets. It is also likely there would be much more information about the specifics of her writing difficulties so that other writing support features could be further considered.

It should be noted that like Brianna often students with complex needs may require a wide range of assistive technologies to participate in a full range of age appropriate activities. Potentially one student may need AT supports for seating and positioning, mobility, speaking, self-care activities and computer supports for curriculum access. Because of these multiple needs it may be necessary to strategically plan how these assistive technologies will be introduced to the student. Most of these devices take time and effort in mastering their use by student, staff and families. It may be necessary to prioritize items or to select an area of focus for the student. In some cases it may take several school years to gain mastery over the various devices and technologies needed.

Once the AT evaluation process has been completed your team will need to return to the IEP to the Specially Designed Services page and describe in detail the training, tools and services, including time and personnel required for the student to gain access to the school curriculum and their environment. At that time goals/objectives may also be reviewed related to AT integration.

Like the vast array of learners there too are a vast array of tools. It is the job of the team to match the tools to the learner by aligning features of the tools to needs and skills of the learners we have just talked about.

We are now going to talk more about the various performance areas of school participation and how assistive technology might specifically help a student to actively participate in these tasks.

It is helpful to classify AT according to the task it enables the student to perform. On the slide are some examples of categories of assistive technology. We will now examine each of these categories for tools and supports your team may want to consider. Please remember that this in not an exhaustive list of tools but only a small sampling.

Appropriate positioning of a student is the first thing to consider. It can include the physical positioning of the student as well as consideration of the placement and positioning of the materials and tools the student is expected to interact with during school activities. While it might seem like seating and positioning consideration only applies to those students with the most severe motor challenges, an appropriately fitting workspace is important for all people. Appropriate positioning can enhance a student's physical well being. It can impact the student's endurance so they can sustain interaction with tasks. It can also impact their visual interaction with materials so that vision and visual perceptual skills can be maximized. And finally it can improve the student's ability to use their arms and hands to manipulate materials. The range of seating and positioning needs may include finding the right size standard chair and desk, adapting a standard chair, or purchasing a custom seating or standing solution for students with more significant motor challenges.

The video in the next slide is an excerpt from the trailer Including Samuel. Notice all the various seating and positioning devices throughout the video.

Video: Now that I am so close to a person with a disability I can't believe that I was so blind to what people with disabilities in our community, in our country, in the world deal with everyday. There was this huge civil rights issue, this huge amount of prejudice going on and I never noticed it before.
Those are Samuel's classmates, his friends. He's going to grow up with these kids and they'll know him as Samuel, not the kid in the wheelchair.
Inclusion is the best way for every child to learn, not just the child who comes in with a speech issue or the child who uses a wheelchair. Every single child has a multiple way of learning and we need to discover those ways.
I made this film to honestly share our story as we try to figure out how to include Samuel in our school, our community, our family, in every aspect of our lives. But Samuel is young and including him may become more and more challenging.
He can play t-ball and still hit it far at the same time.
Samuel brought the disability rights movement into our home and everyday brings new questions. As Samuel grows up, what can we do to make sure that people see that his Cerebral Palsy as just one part of who he is? Can we continue to fully include him as he goes to middle and high school? But, I know that Samuel loves life. He loves to laugh and he loves the Red Sox.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also known as AAC, includes a variety of tools ranging from non-tech to high tech. AAC encompasses gestures, sign language, single-message devices, voice-output devices with hundreds of messages and even sophisticated computers that speak any message, control the user's environment and connect them to the web.

So let's back up a little and discuss the word 'communication'. What exactly is 'communication?' The National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities defines communication as:
'Any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person's needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms and may occur through spoken or other modes' (1992, p.2)‏

This broad view of 'any act' opens up the range of possibilities that persons may use to communicate. It also goes beyond "needs" to include those things we most often communicate about: how we see things, what we know or how we feel.

Video: Imagine yourself able to hear, but not be heard. Able to think, feel and dream but unable to speak your mind. Imagine yourself full of ideas that have meaning but with no means to effectively express yourself.
Today, more than two million people in the United States live without a voice. They are separated from family, friends and co-workers by a wall of silence.
Yet many are now learning that the silence can be overcome. Thousands are finding a voice to a growing field of technology simply called AAC.
AAC solutions are making possible levels of communication that just a few years ago were unachievable. Using a new generation of devices, users can turn thoughts into speech that anyone can hear and understand.
It's more than just the words. It's about connecting to the world. It's about expressing yourself. It's about emotions and being able to communicate with those around you.
AAC devices provide not just communication but encouragement. They improve social interactions, self-confidence, academic and literacy development, and self-sufficiency.
With AAC we give them the tools that they need to participate in everyday activities, to be social beings and to learn language and literacy.
Being able to communicate has enabled me to graduate from high school, attend college, make friends and live on my own.
And while they have been available for decades, AAC solutions are still not widely known. Only now are users, their caregivers and their health care providers discovering how effective and flexible these devices can be.
My mom understands me. Now we can see what Slade would like to do or say or hear or eat or something and there's nothing that can be said that's more important than the power of that speech. I
Adaptable to a wide range of abilities, users can generate speech-using keyboards or hands-free options like mouse sticks, head sticks, switches or head-tracking controls.
It also allows me to describe what happened from my point of view, which is a big deal to me.
Speech-generating devices are not only accessible, they're affordable. Widely covered by federal, state and private insurance plans, the popularity of AAC devices is growing rapidly. This allows people to fully participate in school, work and social settings. More and more, speech and language professionals are making AAC solutions an important part of the services they provide.
Poetry is now an important part of my life. The frustration is gone. No more one-way conversations.
Finally, Beth Ann had a voice. She could talk for herself. We didn't have to ask her Yes and No questions. And, as she got older, the devices got better and better and better and she's gotten better and better with them. It's just absolutely unbelievable. It's definitely a godsend.

"Every person, regardless of the severity of his/her disabilities, has the communicate with others, express everyday preferences and exercise at least some control over his or her daily life. Each individual, therefore, should be given the chance, training, technology, respect and encouragement to do so.'

AAC independence is achieved when the individual has the ability to communicate anything on any topic to anyone.

Some students struggle in moving safely about the school environment with the same speed, agility and safety as other students due to motor and visual limitations. In a previous video we met Samuel who demonstrated some motor limitations. We noticed some positioning supports that were built into his seating and we also saw some mobility devices that he used. Many students like Samuel may need supports from various mobility devices. Those devices might include walkers, manual or powered wheelchairs, motorized recreation devices and other things. Other students may struggle with moving about their environment not because of their motor skills but because of limitations in vision. These students may need canes, electronic image sensors and telescopic aids to safely navigate the environment. Students with mobility limitations may also need additional supports and modifications to their environment. ADA laws requires that all new building constructions be made accessible and comply with relevant accessibility codes. Retrofitting of mobility supports for older buildings might include automatic door openers, handrails in bathrooms, elevators with voice output to announce the floors, stair lifts and Braille for various building signs.

In this video Ellen is demonstrating the use of a switch array built into her headrest used to control the direction of her power wheelchair.

Here is a Preschooler who is learning mobility skills using a cane.
Video: Side, side. Let me see, use the cane. Side to side. Side to side. Oops, found a crack. Side to side. Good girl. Side to side. Side to side. Side to side. Side to side. Side to side. Good job. Laura, she'll be here in a little while. Side to side. Side to side. Good girl. What did you find? What's that? Is that the wall?

Computer access supports may assist students with physical limitations as well as students with sensory limitations such as deafness, hearing impairments, visual impairments, blindness and deaf/blindness. These students can often benefit from computers for support of academic and curriculum activities, however because of their disabilities, they are often limited in their ability to input information into the computer (i.e. type on the computer keyboard or use a mouse) or gain access to the information that is output from the computer (i.e. see the computer screen).

For some students relatively simple solutions to computer access can be found in the accessibility features built into the operating systems of both the Mac and Windows computers. The following accessibility features can be found in both operating systems: zoom, sticky keys, mouse keys and key repeats are just a few of the many features.

Others solutions may include specialized keyboards and mice, as well as switch access through mechanical or electronic switches, head pointers or eye gaze systems. There are a wide range of solutions for computer access based upon the student's needs. You may want to refer to Denis Anson's book, Alternate Computer Access: A Guide to Selection, which provides a decision tree process for determining the most appropriate solution for your student's computer access needs.

(Pictures include: Mac Universal Access Control Panel icon, Big Keys keyboards, mouth stick docking station, Discover Screen (on screen keyboard)
Anson, D. (1997). Alternate computer access: A guide to selection, F. A. Davis, Philadelphia)

This is an example of eye gaze in action

Reading instruction is vital to ALL students, including students with Low Incidence disabilities. Reading like communication should be a skill that competence is assumed first. Students should be exposed to literacy rich content that matches their grade level skills and age appropriate interests. Literacy can come to individuals in many forms. As we look at the next few videos remember that each student will experience 'reading' in a variety of ways. Some individuals 'read' with their ears, some their fingers and others their eyes. The experience of 'reading' is one that is unique. To some selecting the book, topic or genre is the reading experience, for others reading is listening to a great audio text and still others experience reading by holding the book and flipping through it's pages. In the end we hope all learners young and old acquire knowledge, experiences and feed their curiosities through these acts of 'reading'. These literacy rich experiences are needed to shape the culture of learning and drive individuals to learn more as we transition literacy into functional life long skills.

The student in this video is participating in story telling by using a single switch message AAC device with the repeat line in this story. The student is therefore 'reading' a portion of the book as the teacher pauses.

Video: What do you hear? I hear a flamingo fluting in my ear. Flamingo, flamingo. Good, hit it again. Flamingo, flamingo. What do you hear? I hear a zebra in my ear. Zebra, zebra what do you hear? I hear a boa constrictor hissing in my ear.

I find Carr to be a very bright, energetic and fun-loving child. Carr is very creative, he's very funny, he's very persistent. We have changed things for him at school so that people can see those sides of him before they really couldn't. They really didn't see that. He's just a great kid. He's a really great kid.

This is my report about elephants. I learned a lot of things about elephants. Having Carr in my class all day this year has been great because based on last year, just in reading, I saw him as a student that just sat and had totally 1:1 all of the time. He needed someone else to talk for him all of the time.

Elephants roll in the mud and they use the mud for sunscreen. I don't like to use sunscreen. I'm going to try it like elephants.

The difference in him in a year and a half that I've seen him has been great. I love the growth he has made as a speller, reader.

This is how an elephant sounds...listen...(elephant noise).

If you have to use a computer to talk, read and write it can be very slow. Let me show you. The graph I am using here have five different words in them. These words are the ones that everyone uses most of the time for most of what they say, write and read. Spelling it all out would have been even slower. Let's start. We want the story of the funny r-a-n-c-h, ranch. It was not a r-a-n-c-h, ranch said father. It was a little f-a-r-m, farm. A f-a-r-m, farm is not like a r-a-n-c-h, ranch. The f-a-r-m was my home and it was not funny. They like to have fun with father. We want a story father, they said. I have no story, said father. Oh yes you have, he said. We want the story of the funny ranch, we said. It was not a ranch, said father. It was a little farm. A farm is not like a ranch. The farm was my home and it was not funny.
Thank you for your time.

In all settings it is important to keep in mind that if learners cannot function using the text in the format in which it is presented we have not allowed them access to the knowledge. Students will need text presented in a variety of formats including Braille... text- that can be manipulated such as enlarged text, colored text and using text-to-speech applications

Leveled texts and picture supported texts.

The goal of writing access is to match the learner with the tools that support their efforts of getting thoughts onto paper.

Many students struggle with the mechanics of handwriting as one component of the writing process. Some students find it difficult to hold onto a writing tool while others struggle with the visual and motor aspects of forming letters. There are a vast array of pencil grips and adapted writing utensils for students who need a small amount of support in holding onto their writing implement.

Typing and keyboarding may be useful for some students who cannot effectively hold the traditional writing implement even with adaptations. Those students may find they are able to type much faster and with fewer mistakes than when handwriting. For many of our students with significant motor challenges they may be in need of specialized software so they can select words or letters from grids using special computer access equipment. Others may benefit from voice recognition software to speak and then have the computer type what they have spoken. For those students who struggle with the visual aspects of writing there are various colors of paper, various colors and widths of lines as well as raised lines to provide greater visual contrast. Some students are also able to improve their writing with a slanted writing surface because it may provide more postural support for the student and provide better visual access. For students who are visually impaired or blind they may need refreshable Braille displays on their computer as well as voice output or text to speech so they can hear and feel what they are writing. There are many other supports for the mechanics of writing these are just a few examples.

This is an example of an individual who is using voice recognition to complete functional writing tasks.

Video: Let's say I want to leave some notes for my caregiver or I just want to get some thoughts on paper quickly. Wake up...hello, I'm here. Start Dragon Pad. Set font 36. This is a demonstration of the newest product from our company (period).

It allows you to get your thoughts on paper quickly without having to hesitate between words (period). I use this product every day to create my emails (comma), and my company documents (period). It doesn't make many mistakes (period). Close window.

Ultimately writing for all learners should be tangible. The way each learner produces this writing is as unique as their IEP. Evidence of what each student knows should be seen in individual written expression. Written expression does not have to take the form of physical writing. Students can show what they know by sorting, matching, categorizing or filling in the blank, using materials such as digital images, manipulatives of text, or drag and drop text.

In addition individuals may need to learn to use tools that support their writing such as spelling and grammar checkers, word prediction, word, phrase and sentence banks, and electronic dictionaries and digital thesaurus.

This is an example of a student writing using dynamic sentence building grids with voice output. This tool also features word prediction as seen in the toolbar at the bottom.

Video: I like going to the beach, riding my bike, walking in the park, petting my dog, eating apples, petting my dog, petting my dog. I like petting my dog. I like going to the beach, going to the beach.

This student is using a word and phrase grid with left to right progression to demonstrate sentence writing. Some additional features include color-coded cells, voice feedback and picture supports.

Video: At school I read a book. At school I read a book.

Learning and study strategies are equally important for individuals with Low Incidence disabilities. Sometimes it is assumed that students with Low Incidence disabilities do not need to study or complete homework like their peers, however, 'homework' is an opportunity to generalize skills that are learned at school in new environments and in new applications. For example a student is learning to write their name or use a name stamp at school by putting their name on their paper and signing up for lunch count. This skill can be generalized through homework by addressing envelopes, signing a card for a friend or relative and managing banking tasks in the community. Many of the tools used in schoolwork applications are also useful in home and community applications.

Students may search the newspaper, books and magazines for beneficial information at school and at home may use the same skills to search the employment adds for a job or read for pleasure. At school students use highlighters or sticky notes to mark their place in a book or select an answer on a worksheet. At home these tools may be used for reminders in routines and tasks. A sticky note can record a detail when transition is required (such as reading a recipe and setting the oven and timer to specification-sticky notes can travel from the book to the oven to the timer). Some individuals may rely on schedules and color-coding to navigate their school day which can also be applied to a work routine and record steps in completing a daily task such as making a bed or packing a lunch. In addition learners may need tools such as timers, voice recorders, spell checkers and other tools to maintain quality in their work. The list of school to home learning applications is endless with a bit of collaboration and imagination.

Assistive listening devices can range from personal fm systems and TTY that support individual learners to classroom listening systems that have a P.A. effect by getting and maintaining the attention of learners without the need for the teacher to raise their voice. Assistive listening tools also include things like closed captioning that not only benefits individuals with hearing impairments but also those who are visual processors.

(Pictured Items: Hearing Aids, Closed caption icon, Personal Hearing System, Phone Ring Amplifier with Strobe Light, teletypewriters (TTY) or telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD).)

Video: Down, up and down, up and down....give a little clap. Loud and soft, loud and soft, loud and soft.... Groveland teacher Kristie Kuehn's, song about opposites is a fitting way to sum up her classroom before and after she began projecting her voice with the wireless surround sound technology. Last year I didn't have this, and this is my seventh year in the district and it's just made such a huge difference in the way that I can approach the kids in a more gentle manner. I just really can speak nicely with the kids and I don't feel tired at the end of the day, which is a very big difference for me from all the six years previous. It's made such a very big difference. Usually on the first day of school I have lost my voice completely, and I really haven't. I don't leave the day with a sore throat, which is very different from other years.

Do you know how small a millimeter is? It's very tiny. Show me with your fingers.
A small transmitter sends the teacher's voice to speakers in all four corners of the room. The most important thing for me is that it's able to project my voice around the whole classroom, so when students are spread out in the classroom, they're able to hear me without me raising my voice. When they're doing activities we have speakers in each of the corners of my classroom, which makes it really nice to spread my voice out.

Research has found that on any given day students miss up to 25% of what their teachers' say. Even in an acoustically sound classroom, students in the back row are only picking up 55% of the teacher's voice.

For students who are visually impaired, there are various ways to provide access to printed information. The size and contrast of print can be increased to make it more visible. Enlargement can be accomplished through a simple magnifying glass to software that enlarges images on the computer screen.

For many students who are blind, Braille can provide access to written text.
Some students who are visually impaired or blind may use screen-reading software to read any and all text on the computer screen as well as describe pictured materials. Auditory text can also be a solution for individuals who are visually impaired or blind.

Video: My name's Allen Howell and I'm 60 years of age and I have an eye condition called Starlights Disease which in effect is scaring of the retina, the central vision. So the effects of that is that I have some peripheral vision, though that's not brilliant. I have no central vision at all. I became registered blind in 1992 and that kicked off a whole series of actions, I guess. The first one was for Surrey Association for Visual Impairment (SAVI) automatically came out and asked me if I wanted to visit the Resource Centre, which they have there, where you can go and look at various kinds of equipment for me, has been really helpful with things in the house, things such as knobs to go on temperatures on the oven so I can tell that, talking scales, both weighing scales and bathroom scales, which I have. They're terrific. Things like magnifying glasses. I do use a small magnifying glass. The larger equipment that I have is really for reading. It's called a CCTV. What it is in essence is a camera, which I put work underneath and I can either write underneath or read underneath and the image comes up on the television screen in front of me, and I can take the size of the print up or down and I can also transpose the background so instead of having white on black I can have black on white or other different colored backgrounds, which makes it easier for me.

For students with cognitive, motor or sensory limitations engaging in and successfully participating in activities of daily living can be a challenge. These students may have difficulties with dressing, self-feeding, toileting, hygiene and bathing. There are many assistive technologies that can help to improve or create independent functioning with these tasks. Some of these items may include adapted toilet seats, special eating equipment, aids for grooming, adapted cooking tools and many other items

Environmental controls enable users with physical challenges to manipulate their environment as we all do in daily routines. We walk into a room that is too dark and flip on the light switch. We need to unwind from a long day so we turn on the TV or music. We catch up with our friends by making phone calls, texting and emailing.

There are many different devices that enable environmental control. In addition to the features mentioned above users typically access EC or environmental control equipment around the house including appliances, doors, lighting, thermostats, DVR's & related media recorders/players, computers, elevators, home security systems and medical equipment.

Having access to physical activities, leisure time pursuits and play are critical for all. We are able to select and participate in those things that we find of special interest whether it be fishing with friends, participating in a community chorus or knitting or crocheting to relax. Many people with significant disabilities are extremely limited in the types of activities they are able to access for leisure. They often times need to rely on others to take them to places of interest or to help them engage in recreational activities. Assistive technologies can help in providing more independence in accessing these types of activities. There are many different types of adapted toys and games. Many of the state tech acts have partnered with local libraries to provide adapted toys for local communities. These toys may be adapted with switch access or may simply have enlarged parts to assist children who have difficulty gripping the smaller parts and pieces of traditional toys. Computer video games have opened up quite an opportunity for teenagers with significant disabilities particularly when paired with assistive technologies. We will see in the next slide a video of a young man who has become a master gamer but only has the use of one thumb. For students with visual impairments there are adapted beeping balls so they can play ball games such as softball, baseball, and kickball with auditory cues to help in locating the ball. Various modifications to art tools allow budding artists to produce extraordinary pieces of artwork. There are many different types of tools to support leisure time pursuits.

If individuals are to gain independence assistive technology has to be trained, embedded into all environments, transitioned early and become part of transition plans from preschool thru adult life. Looking to the transition planning pages of the IEP will be beneficial when considering assistive technology tools and services over time. Training and needs evaluation will be an ongoing part of learning, living and working with a disability. When considering and matching AT to learners, teams must project the needs of the individual in future plans as well as the present.
Once again a variety of tools may be needed throughout each new transition. Many learning tools from the school environment will also be used in home and work settings and plans need to include details outlining how AT will be integrated at each stage.

As you can see assistive technology is a very important element in helping individuals with exceptionalities reach their full potential and live enviable lives.

Thank you for joining us today for the third webinar in our 4 part series entitled Low Incidence Disabilities: Access to the Curriculum. We hope you join us for our final webinar in this series entitled Instructional Implementation. This and all other webinars in this series will be archived on the OCALI website in the webinar archive link.

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Assistive technology (AT) and other instructional supports are important to each student's path to an enviable life. Student access to these tools and supports is required by IDEA and could mean the difference between a life of independence and a life determined by others. This third segment in the series focuses on the roles and responsibilities of school districts, families, educators, and communities with regard to AT and other instructional supports.

Access to the Curriculum

Previous: Access to the Curriculum - Part 2

Next: Access to the Curriculum - Part 4