The past few weeks I have been working with three young children that have a form of MD. Not all the students are from NJ. Each has a different type of the same disability. All three are unique and amazing in different ways, what each have in common beyond a DX is their drive to be as independent as possible. All their hopes and dreams involve one form of technology or another.
The oldest student is in high school we will call him Bob. His personal goal is to be able to access the internet so he can Facebook with his friends and get on MySpace (yes it is still there). Bob loves music and wants to be able to create music writing, playing and producing music. He also knows he has to do school work not as motivating as the first two goals. Bob is currently attending school on a regular basis but that can change at any time. When it changes because of illness, he will receive home instruction 10 hours a week.
The middle school student we will call him John. His personal goal is to be able to play his games on Playstation, Wii and some computer based games. John is an avid reader and wants to be able to access books that are not assigned by the school. He knows he can listen to books but he wants to be able to READ not listen. John also enjoys school. However, he is on home instruction because of mobility issues. He has a wheelchair but also lives on the third floor of a high-rise building. The elevator has been broken for 5 months and no one knows when it will be repaired.
The youngest of the students we will call him Juan. His personal goal is to be able to enjoy time playing with his sibling and family. So many of the things he can do is hand over hand or isolation play. Juan has the most significant limitations of his movements but has the best head control. Juan enjoys using the computer to join his class for 30 minutes a day. Juan would also be able to listen to books (he is just learning to read). It is something he can share with his family or do by himself. There are games he can play also that if he played the typical way he would be a spectator. Juan at this time does not go to school but that could change with time. Juan enjoys school in short burst. He receives home instruction for a total of 10 hours a week.
Now that you have the background of my three amazing young men there is something that all three could benefit from. I am going to say it, the iPad. Yes, I said. I know you are shocked. The key for these young men are about direct access. If we had to use a computer none of these students would have direct access. We would have to find an alternative method of access. Voice recognition, eye gaze, switches and more that may not be as efficient as direct access. Eye gaze is a form of direct access but since the students don’t need AAC private insurance or Medicaid would not pay for the devices so it would be up to the school district to purchase the devices. Since they are school based machines the question always is can a student do personal activities on the device. The answer there is it depends on the district. It depends on the type of software they will be using.
Each of them has different goals and different needs but all three have another thing in common. Limited movement of their fingers IF the students are physically supported. Each of their supports look different but offer the support the individual needs to access the device. The amount of touch that is needed is great because it is barely a touch. The quantity and quality of apps make it a device that individuals can have a diverse set of tools.
So what have we yes we because I don’t work in isolation, I work with the student team which includes the parent, OT, PT, IT staff and whoever else I can wrangle into the mix. Each of us has skill sets that are needed when working with complex needs.
For Bob, for computer access was voice recognition but he found that he couldn’t play music. He also couldn’t use the VR in the classroom. Access to the iPad we used a wedge to support his hand. We used a small platform built off the wedge to support the iPad. We also gave it a way to rotate by using hardware. We placed little suction cups on the edge so the student can rotate the iPad when needed.
Apps that he is using:
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Write: Online from Crick : Bob uses the Jump Desktop software to use Write: Online
For John, computer access was using his PS3 Game controller. He is able to zip around the screen like you and I do with a standard mouse. He uses voice recognition for writing long assignments. John prefers the standard Windows 7 on-screen keyboard with word prediction for short assignments. Now because he spends the majority of his day in a supine position so we needed to find a mount that could let us get the iPad into his field of vision. Then the other issue was creating a way for him to access the iPad. We used a very basic thera-band sling. We used different colors depending on the speed he needs to tap. For games we use yellow and when he is working on something that needs stability we might head to red or even black. It comes down to his day. Then there are times we use cloth slings that his grandma made using lamb wool and satin.
Apps that he is using:
Jump Desktop to share the computer screen. It allows him to collaborate with peers and do activities that the teacher has created in MS Word, and Excel.
Dragon Go to research information on the internet
Recorder for recording reading, writing and questions he has for his teachers.
For reading he is using the Kindle App
Facetime to speak to his teachers at prep time for homework assignments
Adobe Student and Teacher
Dragon Naturally Speaking
The youngest of the group, we are still working out with the things we will offer. Right now we are keeping it simple. For access, we are using a sling option that was purchased from SMA website. However, we will be changing this. We want to give him more movement than the sling offers.
The youngest of the group, we are still working out with the things we will offer. Right now we are keeping it simple. For access, we are using a sling option that was purchased from SMA website. However, we will be changing this. We want to give him more movement than the sling offers at this time. We may land up with a different sling system. Computer access at this time is not something we are working on however that will come later in the year. Right now the most important thing is to get him to access the iPad and some activities that he and his siblings can do.
There are other apps that are being used. A total of 25 apps that align with the student's school curriculum.
Facetime to access his classroom for the morning meeting (calendar and schedule) and literacy circle (vocabulary and read aloud).
Access for these three overlap at some point but each is set up a little differently in the height and the support that is used. For adults you can find some sling pre-made equipment but when working with children and young teenagers, you pretty much have to make what you need.
I will do my best to get a picture of the alternative access that could be used.