Monday, June 6, 2011

School Technology - HELP!

Over the last term I have been gathering reports and letters to support Ashlea's school application.  We are applying for a placement for her in the physical support unit at our local school.  They are already set up for children with physical disabilities - everything is accessible and they have small class sizes.

I am now starting to think about how she is actually going to do her school work.  I have some ideas and I would like to know what you all think.

I am currently thinking Ashlea needs the following:
  •  a computer with either an intellikeys keyboard or large accessible keyboard of some sort.  I don't want to waste time with handwriting - Ashlea is never going to be able to keep up if she has to hand write.  She needs some sort of technology to help her record her school work.
  • a second computer monitor that displays what is on the smartboard in the classroom.  With her vision impairment there is just no way she will be able to see and take in what is on the board - she will need it right in front of her.
  • a CCTV book reader thingy (don't know the correct terminology on that one yet) - basically it is a  camera hooked up to a monitor - you place reading material under the camera and it magnifies it onto a screen.  Ashlea would be able to access many forms of printed material that way and it would mean the teachers wouldn't have to constantly enlarge print materials for her.  Actually I think we need one of these for home as well for doing homework.

So, that is my basic 'must have' list.  I am curious to see a dynavox in action just in case that would be an option for her.  She doesn't really need it for speech output though, but I have heard that it can act as an accessible computer???

Any other thoughts on what might work?  The key things the technology needs to help with are her physical limitations when it comes to writing, and her visual impairment.  We are going to organise a technology assessment at the RIDBC in the coming weeks so we can try a few of these things out - then will come the fun part - finding the funding for them!  I am also going to make an appointment with the school to see what they already have in place.  What I have heard from other parents though is that it is a very slow process for equipemnt to arrive - so I want to start the funding and ordering now in the hope that we will be ready to go at the beginning of the school year.

Any other suggestions?  Things I should check out?  Things that I should avoid???  What does your child use at school?  What works / doesn't work?



Alice said...

I think iPads are pretty great. Mikey can easily do things on it - he can isolate his index finger well enough to do most things. There are lots of apps that can be used like pecs and text can be enlarged to whatever size you like. X

Gina @ Inky Ed! said...

Is it a NSWDET school? if so then she will most likely be provided a laptop, the vision support team will test drive a number of the magnifier readers. The MyReader2 Mac is testing is pretty impressive. You might be able to test out a normal keyboard just at home, then see if she needs bigger or smaller. I wouldn't rule out morse code as an input method - I LOVE it... 2 buttons for everything! iPad is a good idea and could be a great option to own yourselves in the first instance particularly for the hospital stay later this year so you and she can Skype one another. Then if it is proving to be a useful tool DET can purchase one for her.
Depending on the network systems an iPad can be used as a remote desktop for the whiteboard or Ashlea's computer. It can also be used as a tablet keyboard and mouse for those systems. In Mac's class he sits in front of the computer that runs the whiteboard so he sees the information on that screen rather than on the whiteboard. An iPod Touch can also do a lot of the stuff an iPad can so you could try both options. RIDBC might suggest a braille keyboard for her so she learns to type similar to morse code (just a different code) but doesn't have to use a QWERTY keyboard which aren't really that relevant in the grand scheme of things - just familiar. We bought a second hand tablet (touch screen) computer for Mac for home and his first year or so of school just to make sure it would be used. Feel free to ask any other questions..

Alison said...

Thanks Alice & Gina - we are looking at getting an ipad with our next lot of FAF funding - however I think Ashlea will struggle to control it. We are going to give it a try though. Also I think her intellectual impairment would make the morse code system too hard for her - same with braille. She prefers to use what vision she has so we are choosing large print over braille.
Thanks for your input!!

Missy said...

I have NO idea Alison. I haven't event thought that far ahead. I imagine MM will require some technology to assist with handwriting as she will not be able to keep up with the handwriting.
I think I will get an iPAD for her next year when she starts Pre-Primary. I guess I still want her to do as much writing as she can but at some stage she will require some assistance.
Miss Ashlea as a few competing issues so I guess that makes it a little more complex.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Ok lets see if I can figure this out! If you get this then it means I am officially competent in replying to your blog!! Kim x