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ATA scrapbook of success.

Self-esteem gets a boost

Technology doesn't have to be radical or specialized for a child to benefit greatly.

At TASK (Team of Advocates for Special Kids, the ATA center in Anaheim, Calif.), we have seen children with learning disabilities make great strides through access to computers and standard educational software.

Cecilia is a 12-year-old girl who attended our summer computer lab and, according to her mother, "got so good, I couldn't keep up with her." During the summer, Cecilia, who has learning disabilities, developed a real interest in computers.

Her mother found that Cecilia was able to grasp visual/spatial concepts on the computer that she otherwise didn't understand. She was also motivated to practice math, touch typing and writing.

In addition, Cecilia became familiar enough with the computer that other children would go directly to her with their questions, which was a tremendous boost to her self-esteem.

For Cecilia, the technology didn't have to be adapted to make it accessible--i t only needed to be available.

Discovering the right tools

Garth is an adorable three-year-old boy whose physical and visual disabilities make it difficult for him to interact with his environment. Some people may have felt he wasn't capable of interacting, but now that he has a computer with single-switch games, he is able to show everyone his abilities.

He visited the Computer Access Center (the ATA center in Santa Monica, Calif.) with his parents during a preschool recreation program for children with and without disabilities. At first, it was difficult to discern whether he was reacting to the cause-and-effect software he tried, but together we discovered the right tools. His current favorite is Children's Switch Progressions, newly released in an MS DOS version.

Taking control

Steven Lee is a 16-year-old student who had a brain stem stroke in May 1992. The speech/language pathologist at the hospital requested a consultation with TASC (Technology Assistance for Special Consumers, the ATA center in Huntsville, Ala.).

We first met Steven and his family late one Friday afternoon. Steven was using a respirator and could not talk or move his limbs, head or eyes.

TASC brought an environmental control unit that scans through eight lights, each corresponding to an electrical outlet in the room. All Steven needed to do was touch a switch with his chin to turn on a light, a fan, a television or any appliance plugged into those outlets.

During this visit Steven did touch the switch but it was unclear if his movements were intentional. Steven tired quickly so we left the control unit with him and planned to return in a few days.

When we came back on Monday, Steven was lifting his head from the pillow and using the environmental control unit intentionally. He had even learned how to program the speed of the fan and the number of television channels by himself. Steven and his parents were thinking more positively about Steven's recovery.

Steven was discharged three weeks later and took the environmental control unit with him. Once he was situated at home, we brought over a Macintosh PowerBook with Ke:nx and Co: Writer installed. This allows Steven to select letters from the alphabet through scanning and single-switch selection and provides voice output and word prediction to reduce the keystrokes required.

Steven immediately saw the potential and without hesitation started to create sentences with hardly any instruction. One of his first sentences was, "Please don't take your computer home!"

TASC worked with the family to help them find funding for this equipment from local civic groups. Steven is now teaching himself how to use MacDraw and he is looking forward to returning to school when he is out of intensive rehabilitation.

Ke:nx and Co: Writer are available from Don Johnston Developmental Equipment, P.O. Box 639, 1000 N. Rand Rd., Bldg. 115, Wauconda, III. 60084, (800) 999-4660. Children's Switch Progressions is available from R.J. Cooper & Assoc., 24843 Del Prado #283, Dana Point, Calif. 92629, (714) 240-1912.

The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a network of community-based technology resource centers dedicated to providing access to the assistive technologies and related services that enable people with disabilities to achieve productivity, independence and success according to their individual needs and interests. ATA centers serve people of all ages with disabilities of all kinds and have comprehensive, multifaceted programs that reflect their specific community needs, as well as local talents and resources.

For more information about the ATA and the center nearest you, call (800) 992-8111 or (510) 528-0747.
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Title Annotation:rehabilitating handicapped with computers; Alliance for Technology
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:School bus safety dispute.
Next Article:"Meetings are always unpleasant for us": family stress from parent-professional conferences.

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