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Monday, December 3

  1. msg Feedback from Mads message posted Feedback from Mads Hello Pathways Seminar Participants: Your passion and enthusiasm for this investigation are impr…
    Feedback from Mads
    Hello Pathways Seminar Participants:

    Your passion and enthusiasm for this investigation are impressive! After reading your posts over and over, here are topics that emerged, with my comments.

    Empowered People

    In your posts I saw a resounding HOORAY as you realized how the individuals that you investigated were so empowered by their use of AT. You realized that AT takes many forms and means many things. You understood that these investigations were about people first, access to the world second, and technology tools last. It’s all about equity and human rights. I loved this spirit in your posts.

    Your Important Comments Related to the Investigation

    If you didn’t happen to catch all of these comments, I encourage you to go back to read. I read them over and over, loving how your own experiences and reflections serve to shed light for each other’s ideas.

    • We are responsible for a formal review of each student’s IEP once a year and must ensure that AT is provided as included in the student’s IEP throughout the school year.

    • This is a very interesting topic for me. One that makes me re-consider many of things I have been doing as a special educator. One part of my job is to chair IEP meetings. … To be honest I never consider an AT evaluation.

    • Our goals should be to get our students to have appropriate AT tools that will help them integrate into the classroom and be successful students.

    • I found this presentation to be both informational and liberating. Informative because it listed in writing everything a person who has been diagnosed with a disability deserves; liberating because the system has advocated for them and their specific needs. … I believe that as special education teachers, we are here to help and guide our students to becoming everything they had dreamed and hoped to be despite their physical or mental disabilities.

    • Advocating for students is one of the main reasons why I am looking to get certified in special education. I have been a guidance counselor and that has been my role and it is the part of the job I enjoy most when working with students. I enjoyed reading and getting more information about the vocational and housing needs of students.

    • I am very glad that these resources exist and are available to parents and families, and I am glad that our government consciously chooses to pass such non-discriminatory laws. However, I hope that we can continue to improve the funding for providing such necessary services to our students and the time to implement these technologies.
    • In IEP meetings, these rights are not always revealed to the parent, especially when the mentioning and/or explanation of specific rights may cause conflict between the parent and the school or district or cause the meeting to be reconvened. The ETFs are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of meetings that exclusion seems to be the norm.

    • Assistive Technology and Augmented and Alternative Communication Devices are in many cases going to be the only way to ensure that the educator is performing their required duties to the student. If the student’s IEP or 504 plan indicates such devices are needed, they must be provided to the student.

    • Not only is it my responsibility as a special educator to be fully aware of the implications of laws related to assistive technology, but it is also my obligation to broker this knowledge to families. This is a perspective I have had since a young child, as I am a brother to two students who both have autism. As someone who is particularly interested in the gap between the power of families guaranteed by IDEA 2004 and the amount conferred in actuality, I was struck by the increasing amount of legislation directly relating to assistive technology.

    • Left with lasting inspiration for the use of AT for persons with and without disabilities these two presentations were packed with invaluable information on AT and the laws that support their use.

    • I researched the attached website and found that in Massachusetts there are several programs such as the: Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program (MATLP) (the program provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees for people purchasing assistive technology), the AT exchange which posts used devices (http://www.getATstuff.org), the ATSS is the AT exchange for school systems (http://www.atschoolshare.org), Mass MATCH the Massachusetts initiative to Maximize Assistive Technology in Consumers’ Hands (http://www.massmatch.org/for_educators.php#AT_devices_definition) has a wealth of information concerning connecting students to the AT that they need. This link connects to the part of the site that is for educators. MATCH has two regional centers where families can go and they can try out, learn about, and even borrow AT devices. One of the centers is right here in Boston (Catherine Bly co-coordinator 89 South Street
Boston, MA 02111).

    • I realized that in my ELA classroom, though I have not been utilizing computer software that could potentially assist my students greatly, I have been utilizing less sophisticated forms of assistive technology. I have utilized Assistive Technologies by changing text size, modifying texts, and using pictures with texts, and giving scheduling aids. I also, in accordance with my students’ IEPs, provide them with technologies that they need to be successful, but I continue to want to learn more programs that can help them.

    • Reminding parents and of legal rights and possible pathways that can be taken in regards to assistive devices and how they might help a child should be an ongoing process. As educators we must do our best to assist parents obtain as much information as possible, and if they come to an IEP meeting well informed, it allows parents, educators, therapists and facilitators to focus as much time as possible discussing developing strategies.

    • My first thought as I read both of these PowerPoint presentations was wow! I wish we had a Family Center on Technology and Disability specifically for the Boston Public Schools. I was impressed by the descriptions of AT as well. Something as easy as adding a grip to a fork can make the life of someone with a disability, and thus their family, so much easier. Both presentations were quite comprehensive and would be appropriate for anyone interested in AT.

    • As educators within BPS, it is known that students’ IEPs oftentimes do not receive the reevaluation, process required by law. The responsibility thus falls on the shoulders of the teachers to review IEPs to ensure all accommodations are being utilized. In my own experience, I see the special education department in BPS overwhelmed by the number of students needing services that innovative technology goes unconsidered when developing accommodations, supports, program modifications or supplementary aids and services. Therefore, I have a new perspective when accessing my students in the class and in thinking of how he or she can be better served to reach success.

    • Although we have much room for improvement, it’s really not that long ago that students with disabilities were not guaranteed an education. I was not aware of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act that requires all electronic and information technologies developed and used by the Federal government to be made accessible to people with disabilities. The information included under the Tech Act was also new to me. I’m finding it’s very important to know about these laws and available resources so that I can effectively advocate for my students.

    • The laws featured in the presentation covered many different facets of protecting the rights of people with disabilities. These laws include issues of access and support, inclusion, funding, and representation and distribution of information. One pattern that I noticed in the laws in the ACC and AT presentation was an emphasis on the representation of information accessible as seen in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IV of the ADA, The Television Decoder Circulatory, and Title II – Public Law 104-104. Furthermore, conducted under IDEA 2004, the National Instructional Materials Access Center is a “federally-funded, national electronic file repository that makes National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) files available for the production of core print instructional materials in specialized formats” (http://nimac.us/). NIMAS provides electronic and downloadedable Braille, audio, and larger-printed versions of the text. (Mads Comment – see Bookshare Investigation on our class wiki!)

    • If a parent believes that a student requires AT the school district is required to evaluate the students need for AT. A teacher provides important input regarding student’s strengths and challenges within the classroom and how AT can help a student.

    • It was a little daunting and overwhelming reading the presentations and simultaneously thinking about every tiny part of special education from the referral, to IEP meetings, to all the specialists that need to be involved, to AT. Forget about money, time is the biggest resource being utilized for special education to work properly. … The good news seems to be that with all these laws in place there is an extremely high level of collaboration achieved (or is at least the goal) between all the parties involved. Likely it will never be perfect, but if we utilize all the specialists and resources that are available for something like AT we will be bringing our students that much closer to truly being able to access everything that they need to access academically and beyond.

    • Teachers working with teams of educators are required to update IEPs annually in order to find the best accommodations, including AT, that will facilitate students’ education. The point is to provide young people with greater independence in the long run. The law makes it clear that as teachers we have the responsibility to provide the best possible learning environment for all students, and to modify instruction based on all student needs. This is referred to as “appropriate” in FAPE. Instruction should “fit” the student.

    • Both of these presentations were very informative, but I especially liked the AT Information for Families. This is a great resource for both families and teachers that explains AT and its many forms and uses. I like that it breaks AT into different categories of disabilities so that parents can concentrate on and see different options for what will work for their child. Some parents may have not even heard of AT, let alone know all of the laws and ways to help their children. IDEA states that AT evaluations must be performed that the school must provide them, and necessary training.

    • The definition and various examples of Assistive Technology provide a comprehensive inventory for educators to reference when determining options for AT in student learning. One of the most striking concepts for me is the clear connection between school and home use. This underscores the importance of the parent-teacher relationship. As students use aids for studying, writing, and communicating at school, it is obvious that these same aids assist students in watching television, engaging in activities, and communicating with family at home. Because learning is not only confined to the school building, it is important that when considering AT for a student, the family’s capacity to support its use is highly evaluated.

    • I worked in a school where parents were encouraged to bring an advocate with them, a friend, family member, etc., who could provide guidance with the information presented in the meetings. I found this to be a gentle reminder that the meeting was about the best interest of the student and was the school’s attempt at making sure the family was comfortable with the process. IEP meetings can be overwhelming for all involved but especially for those participants who lack background knowledge on the terminology and information provided. Both presentations are filled with information that I would want to pass on to families I am working to ensure they know what their child is eligible for under the law.

    • To be honest, I had no idea so much legislation existed to ensure people with disabilities have equal opportunity in all aspects of their life. I feel that this is important information that every educator who works with students with disabilities needs to know so they can support and advocate for their students. I was especially interested in this information because of my intellectually disabled brother. Recently, I have wanted to explore what options are available for him in terms of assistive technology that might help him focus on day-to-day tasks. I was not aware that there are centers that provide information and even allow people to test various forms of assistive technology. I immediately checked to see if there was a center near my mother and brother and then forwarded the information along to my mother.

    • My thoughts as an educator when reading the laws regarding Assistive Technology has broaden since the last time I had to study about this field. As an educator, it’s my responsibility to provide as much information for my students to not only be successful in class, but also in the real world. Giving students the meaning to solve problems critically and apply knowledge for practical solutions is fine, but if my students can’t access these things because of a physical/mental impediment, it’s my responsibility to provide the necessary equipment for them to be as successful as any one of my other students that may not need AT. This can be accomplished by knowing where are my resources here in this district and utilize them, because I’m bond to be of service to ALL of my students.

    • These presentations helped clarify any questions I had about the laws and regulations for assistive technology. Before I was confused about where in an IEP assistive technology fit into. I wasn’t sure if it had its own category. I learned that it should be presented under the accommodation section of the IEP. I never realized that I was already recommending certain kinds of assistive technology, such as highlighters, and graphic organizers.

    • As teachers, we need to comply with this law and accommodate all our students to the fullest extent possible. Inclusion provides access to general education classes to students with greater needs. Teachers need to be up to date on all accommodations and, if they are highly technical, well versed in their use. Teachers working with teams of educators are required to update IEPs annually in order to find the best accommodations, including AT, that will facilitate students’ education. The point is to provide young people with greater independence in the long run.

    • I think that the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 and Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act Amendments of 1998 are very important as an educator as we are obligated to not only provide our students with all assistive technologies that they need, but we should also familiarize ourselves with the technologies through intensive technical training.

    • I’m just surprised it took until 1975 to pass the Education for all handicapped children act to pass. This law basically guarantees that all eligible children with a disability receive a Fair and Appropriate Education. I was also impressed with the Workforce Investment Act, which helps with job planning, and job acquisition for people with disabilities. I don’t mean to sound corny but this is why we live in a great country.



    Reality Check

    Some of you saw not just the impact of using AT, but also the reality of what it might take to provide the proper intervention design. In the real world, you question how to assess the learner’s needs, ask about what follow-up support might be required, and notice that if the support or tools aren’t used to their fullest, the learner might not achieve as we hope. Implementation questions are natural as you are just evolving in your basic awareness of these life-changing tools. I’m pleased to hear many of you already considering your own next steps as you are inspired by these investigations.

    I am also pleased to see that you worked yourself as a group toward the understanding that low-tech interventions might be as effective and easier to implement. Yes, I consider PECS to be assistive technology!

    Request for Information

    Remember that there are articles and resources in every theme on the wiki that you might check out for all sorts of next steps in many areas in this vast field called assistive technology. Additionally, the “Resources” page is designed to give you lots of next steps. Imagine earning points in class to discuss the very questions that are emerging as you grow in your understanding!

    About the Assignment

    The goal of this assignment is that “students learn to consider assistive technology tools in support of learners who require accessibility accommodations in order to successfully access the curriculum”. You embraced the approach of using case studies in the first person as a welcome way for us to see the potential. It appears that using the Internet to investigate success stories as well as tools is an effective vehicle for you. This is delightful feedback!

    Your Points Earned:

    Your work on this theme earns everyone full points! Thank you for the effort you put into reflecting on what AT means to you as an educator. You wrote from the heart and with conviction. I’m very proud of your efforts.

    Fantastic work, everyone!

    Mads
  2. msg AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA message posted AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA It's good to see that the Assistive Tech laws have pretty much covered all angles concerning indivi…
    AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA
    It's good to see that the Assistive Tech laws have pretty much covered all angles concerning individuals with a disability. These laws guarantee that everyone with a disability gets a fair shot, whether that is in education, housing opportunities, and job opportunities. I’m just surprised it took until 1975 to pass the Education for all handicapped children act to pass. This law basically guarantees that all eligible children with a disability receive a Fair and Appropriate Education. I was also impressed with the Workforce Investment Act, which helps with job planning, and job acquisition for people with disabilities. I don’t mean to sound corny but this is why we live in a great country. We have laws that protect the rights of everyone. It doesn’t matter if your black, white, have a disability or don’t it’s the law to treat all equally. Whether or not it’s done is a different story.


    T.Forbes
    1:22 pm

Friday, November 30

  1. msg Communication Device Users Have Functional Communication message posted Communication Device Users Have Functional Communication Hi Michael, I really enjoyed reading your post and the experiences that you shared. I agree tha…
    Communication Device Users Have Functional Communication
    Hi Michael,

    I really enjoyed reading your post and the experiences that you shared. I agree that if we take the frustration that you and I feel in social or professional settings when we have trouble articulating our exact point, and greatly amplify it, then we may come close to the feelings that a student impaired speaking abilities would have. Then, to imagine that feeling all day long, and every day- it really highlights the need for these communication devices and also the technical training on our end necessary to adequately implement them. This youtube video highlights how the “silence can be overcome” so I highly recommend that you watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eb_URYj_L_k.

    Have you found the communication board to be successful in your classroom? Students with autism at my school help do some administrative tasks during the day. One of their tasks is mail delivery- so each teacher has been assigned an image (fruit, dessert, sports items, etc.) and they have been very successful with accurate placement of mail.

    See you soon!
    Lauren
    7:16 pm
  2. msg AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 message posted AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 I am very impressed by the number of Assistive Technology Laws that exist and are implemented daily…
    AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004
    I am very impressed by the number of Assistive Technology Laws that exist and are implemented daily. The law which I see most often in my school, is IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act); however, it is interesting to learn about the rights that Americans with disabilities have laws to protect which to me seem like no-brainers. For instance, the fact that laws needed to be created to enforce that Americans with disabilities receive equal opportunity in employment, transportation, housing, healthcare and other basic aspects of life is mind boggling to me as an educator and just as a citizen. I think that the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 and Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act Amendments of 1998 are very important as an educator as we are obligated to not only provide our students with all assistive technologies that they need, but we should also familiarize ourselves with the technologies through intensive technical training.

    The second PowerPoint struck a chord with me early on. I found myself role-playing as a mother of a child in need of AT. I thought of how overwhelming it would feel to have a child who could not eat or dress on his/ her own. I would feel completely helpless and inadequate; yet the slide from other parents and “The Big Picture” would help ease my concerns and reassure me that I am not alone and could find technologies and strategies to help my child. I also found an interesting and highly informative website called The Family Center on Technology and Disability (http://www.fctd.info/show/about). Luckily, support centers and parent blogs are popping up every day to help share success stories and spread awareness.
    6:49 pm
  3. msg AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 message posted AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 Absolutely right, Steve! It is our responsibility to adhere to the law but also provide for our stu…
    AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004
    Absolutely right, Steve! It is our responsibility to adhere to the law but also provide for our students the means to be successful in their academics. This will then in turn build healthy productive members to society. This should not be hindered by a disability that can be easily addressed by the use of AT. Wonderful!

    Jean B
    11:20 am

Thursday, November 29

  1. msg FC is not a valid form of communication message posted FC is not a valid form of communication I am left feeling utterly disgusted, disappointed, and horrified after watching the 20/20 episode a…
    FC is not a valid form of communication
    I am left feeling utterly disgusted, disappointed, and horrified after watching the 20/20 episode and reading the Wikipedia articles on facilitated communication. I truly cannot even begin to grasp how FC was ever considered a legitimate practice. I’m infuriated now even an hour after watching it. I understand that a parent desperate to give their child a way to communicate might be blind to any possible farces because they would simply be grasping at any and all hope for their child. But what about all the people involved outside the immediate family? Lawmakers, teachers, scientists, etc. Didn’t anyone ever see FC in action and use common sense and realize that OF COURSE they’re not actually communicating! You can literally see the facilitator moving their arm to specific letters! It’s embarrassing that normal adults of at least average intelligence would find this process acceptable. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a hoax so ridiculously stupid for lack of a better word. The poor family, especially the son—his interrogation was particularly painful for me to watch. I see the whole idea of facilitated communication as an issue of people turning a blind eye to any skepticism they might have in order to be positive and believe that these individuals can communicate. I’m not saying that they can’t, but clearly FC is not going to make it happen. I apologize if this post is a bit of a rant, but I can’t help it after seeing the video and watching other Youtube videos of FC in action. I even came across one of a facilitator holding a cat’s paw and making it type—might as well be a cat when either way the facilitator is influencing what the subject is saying.

    My own person take-away from this would be that I want to be careful and purposeful with the use of any AT and closely monitor its use. I can’t just want it to work well and therefore it will work (which seems to be what happened with FC). We’re not perfect so trying things that don’t work is okay as long as we realize when they’re not working and learn from our mistakes. As a side note, FC is a plan that went wrong, whereas I think augmentative communication devices are fantastic for some individuals.

    -Mckenzie
  2. msg AAC and AT in the team process message posted AAC and AT in the team process Trent and Alyssa, Thank you for your posts, they have helped me think more deeply about the nec…
    AAC and AT in the team process
    Trent and Alyssa,

    Thank you for your posts, they have helped me think more deeply about the necessary information and support parents and teachers need in order to participate effectively, confidently, and knowledgeably in the IEP process. Furthermore, your posts demonstrated the importance of clear communication across team members in order to deliver and plan cohesive and coherent plans, supports, and accommodations for their students. As a new member to my school community, however, I am quickly realizing that it is also integral to be able to communicate and connect with students’ previous teachers in order to learn about their specific learning needs and implementation of their IEPs.

    As I was completing my investigations, one of the topics that I found particularly interesting and useful was the role of ACC and AT in transition planning. On the transition planning forum under the Assistive Technology for Community Inclusion heading you will be able to find the Family Information Guide to Assistive Technology and Transition Guide. I found this resource very informative for families with students with AT needs. Overall, it provides an outline of student and family rights for access, support, and inclusion in regards to AT and special needs across educational and occupational settings as well as with media, technology, and communication. In addition, it included the responsibilities that educational, occupational, and other institutions have in supporting people with AT and special needs.

    best,
    sinta
    5:39 pm
  3. msg AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 message posted AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 Jean B, forgot my name!!!
    AAC & AT as they apply to IDEA 2004
    Jean B, forgot my name!!!
    12:51 pm
  4. msg AAC and AT in the team process message posted AAC and AT in the team process Trent, I can relate to this post because I have also felt this way in IEP meetings this year. T…
    AAC and AT in the team process
    Trent,

    I can relate to this post because I have also felt this way in IEP meetings this year. This class, the third investigation in particular, has helped me gain a confidence with the IEPs I am responsible for. I also love your idea of educating parents more on their child’s IEP. They do a lot of listening in meetings, and I feel as though some of them would be more comfortable asking questions and/or voicing concerns, if they had a better understanding of their child’s IEP.

    -Alyssa
    11:30 am
  5. msg AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 message posted AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004 These presentations helped clarify any questions I had about the laws and regulations for assistive…
    AAC and AT as they apply to IDEA 2004
    These presentations helped clarify any questions I had about the laws and regulations for assistive technology. Before I was confused about where in an IEP assistive technology fit into. I wasn’t sure if it had its own category. I learned that it should be presented under the accommodation section of the IEP. I never realized that I was already recommending certain kinds of assistive technology, such as highlighters, and graphic organizers.

    The last presentation mentioned one major responsibility of a special educator. That responsibility is being a good listener. Special educators need to not only be aware of what is going on in there own classrooms, but also aware of how their students are performing in their other classes. For example, I had a student who was doing well in my class, but was failing his history class. He was in a regular education history class, and after talking with his teacher we came up with solutions to his struggles with that class. Discussing his IEP with that teacher was necessary in resolving these issues. Also listening to what is going on at home is a responsibility. Just like listening to teachers, special educators need to listen to parent concerns. Parents need to be aware of what is going on in their child’s classes, and special educators need to listen to their feedback.

    My school has set up a common planning time for special educators to meet with teachers who have the same students. This has been very useful in working towards student goals, and for teachers to talk/listen to parents as a team.

    -Alyssa
    9:57 am

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