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ATA scrapbook of success.

"I want to be a writer." These are the words of 10-year-old Kristen who is in a regular fourth-grade class in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and a member of the ATA center in Simi Valley, Calif.

Kristen is very similar to the other children in her class. She loves to go to the movies, talk to friends on the phone, have sleep-over parties and play dress up. She also loves to write on her computer and create stories to share with her friends and relatives. She now has more than four notebooks of her stories and many are about Kristen, the upsidedown fairy who sees everything in her world just a little bit cockeyed.

Kristen will never write with a pencil as she has difficulty even grasping a piece of paper. She has cerebral palsy and drives her motorized wheelchair with a joystick.

She has use of only one hand and needs to be supported to sit up in her wheelchair. The computer is her pencil and paper. When she types on the computer, she uses a plastic Key-guard which stabilizes her hand and enables her to hit one key at a time.

The computer Kristen uses in school has allowed her to be an active participant. The school has assigned an aide to assist her, but Kristen profits most by doing her own work. Three years ago the term "attention deficit" was used in reference to Kristen, but that may have been because Kristen had to depend upon and wait for an aide to write her answers. Now Kristen is doing her own writing and her ability to stay on task is very appropriate.

She learned to spell by using a program called Magic Spells that flashes a word on the screen for six seconds and then asks Kristen to spell it. This program allowed her to learn to look at the whole word rather than one letter at a time, which helped develop her spelling skills.

Writing is her biggest joy and many afternoons she will wheel up to her computer and write poems and thoughts she wants to share. Graphic software like the Children's Writing and Publishing program add a sparkle to her writing and she loves to vary the fonts and rotate the pictures to enhance her stories.

Kristen began on an Apple IIGS. She now uses a Macintosh LC II and is excited about the added flexibility and independence it offers. The programs are installed on the hard drive so she can move from program to program by herself.

She is taking advantage of the built-in Macintosh Easy Access curb cuts, Sticky Keys and Mouse Keys. Sticky Keys allow her to enter keys in sequence instead of simultaneously. This has solved the problem of having to reach across her body to set and reset the caps-lock key for just one capital letter, which was a major challenge due to her limited range of motion. Mouse Keys allow full access to mouse operations using the number key pad on the right side of the keyboard.

Kristin's class is practicing handwriting, so Kristen is using a script font on the computer to help her learn the letter formations and how to read them.

Co: Writer is a word prediction program for the Macintosh that helps Kristen achieve the speed she was lacking with one-finger typing. The program attempts to predict the next word based on grammar rules and frequency of use. She can choose one of the selected words or continue to type her own choice, which can then be added to the dictionary.

A recent note to her dad about a date at the local Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Parlor took considerably less time once the name was entered into the prediction section. Seventeen keystrokes were accomplished in just three. As a result of using the word prediction program, Kristen is writing more now that it takes less time to input each word.

Kristen, a talented girl with a supportive family and school system, has a bright future thanks to the use of adaptive computer technology.
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Title Annotation:Alliance for Technology Access centers for handicapped people
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:On the ice.
Next Article:"We continued the school people's fight at home." Family problems when professionals disagree.

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