I admit it, I like planning. I like details and crave order when I am going somewhere. There are people that are spontaneous and can function with great ease. I on the other plan like to see everything mapped out and organized. For me, it decreases the anxiety that I feel when I am spending someone else’s money. I want to make sure I that I use my time wisely, get everything that I need and want from the conference. I also want to make sure that I didn't overlook something. Just because I like to plan doesn't mean that I don't swerve from the plan. Best laid plans are doomed to fail.
Typically if you work for an agency or a school district you are going to be attending with at least 1 other co-worker. Although each of your may have your own interest (Voice Recognition) and needs there is a common thread that both need to cover for the cooperative group. I suggest that you devise a plan of attack that best supports your parents, teachers and your own needs. The first step is visiting the Closing the Gap website. Look at the name of the presentations and presenters. DO NOT shy away from names you don’t know. Sometimes they are the best presentations. After you have an idea of the presentations and exhibitors start to think about the students, staff and parents you need to support.
There are many ways that you can do it. For me, I found it helpful to use index cards one index card for each student that I am currently working with. The index card has the students name, school, and needs listed. Before the conference I will visit or call the staff, parents and student and ask questions that help me understand their concerns for the coming school year. Such as (standardized testing, alterative assessments, transition, life skills, etc).Not only does this help give me a purpose when selecting workshops, exhibitors but it also opens dialogue about the parent and professional fears, expectations and hopes for outcomes. The other benefit of having these conversations is that between the list servs and the conferences I can begin to brainstorm and problem solve some ideas. I make my index cards on the computer in MS Word. I try not to write unless I have too. I have more control in word then I do with handwriting. I can fit more on the card, color code, and create a table for organization. Below is the color coding I use for the index card system.
- Yellow: Access
- Purple: Communication
- Blue: Vision
- Green: Writing
- Pink: Reading
A second method that is helpful is breaking things down into categories for the exhibitor hall or workshops. I love check list. I have uploaded my divide and conquer worksheet that you use.
Technology that is currently in place. Are there any presentations that will help you implement these tools in a more consistent way or maybe even begin using this tool that has been collecting dust?
Train the trainer: We are often in charge of training teachers and parents. These sessions give helpful tips to others.
Data: Yes, that is the four letter word that we all hate to hear. But it is becoming more important by the day.
AAC implementation: It is an area that so much information and training is being offered especially around writing, reading and communication beyond choice making.
Reading: How technology can support reading for all and showing how TTS can be used for more than auditory comprehension.
Math: Is there any presentations or exhibitors that are going to talk about math. We think that mechanical writing has gone to the wayside but wow have you looked for math solutions.
Science and History: Every child that is part of an inclusion setting happens to be placed in these two subjects yet we have so little AT that supports these areas.
Access: There is always something new and exciting. There are some great workshops on two switch scanning and alterative access methods.
Now you don’t have to have a game plan. You can flutter around like a butterfly looking for its next meal but honestly to get the most out of this conference or any other large conference the inside secret is: planning. With all the excellent workshops that are happening you can’t be in all the workshops and exhibitors you want to see, there is no way it is going to happen in the 24 hours. So devise that plan, conspire with co-workers or friends that you have made on the list serv to cover as many of the workshops as possible. A network is an excellent source of information. It also gives you a reason to head to the bar (shhh) at the end of the long day.