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Real people, real technology, real solutions.

Ann Moore is a bright, popular 10-year-old living in Ormond Beach, Florida. Ann, who has spastic cerebral palsy and a severe visual impairment, attends Palm Terrace Elementary School, where she is an enthusiastic participant in her fourth-grade class.

But just two years ago, neither Arm nor her family could have imagined her current level of success and achievement. For six years, her parents, Beth and Bill, had worked with teachers and therapists to develop an appropriate educational program for Ann. Each year, the IEP team came up with an instructional plan to help Ann learn to communicate and demonstrate her understanding of classroom instruction. And each year, her parents, teachers and therapists experienced failure in helping Ann attain those goals. As often happens when failure becomes repetitive, expectations began to diminish.

Early in the summer of 1994, Beth and Bill decided to call CITE (Center for Independence, Technology & Education), the ATA center in Orlando. When staff members encouraged them to attend the CITE summer "computer camp" with Ann, Beth and Bill were incline to believe the effort would be futile. After all, their daughter's school had all but given up on her, and Beth and Bill were beginning to lower their own expectations. But despite these doubts,

Beth agreed to attend the camp with Ann and her older sister, Ellen.

That summer turned out to be a turning point in Ann's life as her family explored new ways to communicate with her. CITE staff members assembled a wide array of communication devices and switches for Ann and her family to evaluate - everything from simple, switch-activated, battery-operated, three-selection scanners that allowed Ann to choose among three pre-recorded spoken messages with the touch of a switch, to more sophisticated devices like a Macintosh computer with Speaking Dynamically (Mayer-Johnson, Solana Beach, CA), a communication program that allowed Ann to create original sentences by selecting from a menu of pictures.

Beth and Bill had never seen equipment like this. Neither had Ann, but she responded enthusiastically. Almost immediately, Ann' was able to use these devices to indicate her preferences.

Ann's parents left camp determined to make these new tools and ideas a regular part of Ann's daily life. Beginning with switches, they discovered that Ann, even with her limited hand movement, could operate a wheelchair-mounted switch quite reliably with her left hand. Soon she was using switch input to operate a Macintosh computer. She quickly progressed to Co:Writer, (Don Johnston, Wauconda, IL), word-prediction software that provided her with increased speed in writing and communicating. Because Ann has a visual impairment, she used Enlarge (Berkeley Systems, Berkeley, CA), a software product that provided her with large print on the computer monitor.

No longer did family members need to make guesses about Ann's likes, dislikes and choices. Now Ann could choose her own clothes and let her family know which videotape she wanted to watch. It was exhilarating to see Ann making so many choices, communicating her needs and desires, and, finally, demonstrating the knowledge and understanding her parents had always believed she possessed.

By the time school resumed that fall, Beth and Bill were full of ideas to share with the teaching staff at Ann's school. The school purchased a Macintosh computer and necessary access devices for Ann's use. Not only did she begin to experience academic success for the very first time, thanks to the computer's speech output function, Ann also became able to communicate clearly with her teachers and classmates.

Each of Ann's accomplishments has encouraged her to attempt more. Ann's success also encourages her parents and teachers, who now realize that she is bright and can learn. "The Moore family has found a new hope for our beautiful daughter and sister," says Beth. "We found that hope at CITE."

Eight-year-old Lauren Scrivo of Fairfield, New Jersey has been a technology user much longer than most of her young friends. Lauren was born with congenital nemaline myopathy, a form of muscular dystrophy, and her parents, Linda and Peter, quickly realized that assistive technology could play an important role in her life. In fact, it was Lauren's preschool teacher who first recommended that the family visit the Center for Enabling Technology (CET), the ATA center in Whippany, New Jersey.

By the time Lauren entered first grade, she was doing all her writing with a mini-keyboard and computer. This worked well for some time, until, because of her disability, Lauren experienced a decline in her range of motion and hand strength. Soon just a small amount of word-processing caused fatigue.

By second grade, Lauren was unable to keep up with the writing demands of her class, demands her parents knew would only increase in higher grades. Lauren and her family returned to CET to search for solutions.

As Lauren and her parents tried out available combinations of hardware and software, they discovered two promising options. The first was Ke:nx (Don Johnston, Wauconda, IL), software that allows computers to recognize methods of input other than the traditional keyboard. One Ke:nx option displays a keyboard on the computer's screen. This allowed Lauren to do word processing by using a trackball - a device consisting of a moveable ball on a stationary base - to move the on-screen cursor. Since only small hand movements were required, Lauren was able to move the cursor around the on-screen keyboard quickly, and with little fatigue. But choosing letters from the on-screen keyboard required Lauren to push a button on the trackball, and this proved still to be too tiring.

The second option Lauren's family discovered at CET was the MagicWand keyboard (InTouch Systems, Spring Valley, NY). The small MagicWand keyboard responds to the light touch of two pens on the keys. This option required a very small range of motion and no pressure, so Lauren did not become fatigued while using it. And by combining the MagicWand keyboard with Co:Writer, Lauren was able to work even more quickly

With CET's support, Lauren's parents worked with her school to purchase these important new tools and to provide Lauren with her own personal classroom computer. In addition, the school also made architectural modifications so every part of the building is wheelchair accessible. "Everyone at the school - from the principal on down - has embraced the concept of full inclusion and is committed to making Lauren's experience a success," says her mother. "We have nothing but praise for their efforts."

Assistive technology often reveals considerable ability where little had been assumed to exist. This was certainly true for Jennie Shaw, whose first encounter with a computer took place at the age of seven.

Jennie was born with an arachnoidal cyst on the left side of her brain. The cyst had clearly affected her fine motor skills, and she was also non-verbal. Jennie's occupational therapist referred the family to Technology Assistance for Special Consumers (TASC), the ATA center in Huntsville, Alabama.

To everyone's surprise, when seated at a computer keyboard, Jennie showed an immediate ability to type, even alphabetize, simple words. Her teachers had not even been sure Jennie was able to recognize letters. Jennie's mother, Vickie, began developing a vision of what her daughter might accomplish with technology.

For starters, it was clear Wa some of augmentative communication (AC) device would be crucial. At TASC, Jennie was able to evaluate a number of devices. The liberator (Prentke-Romich, Wooster, OH) was most effective.

Jennie's newfound communication abilities have helped her family and teachers learn more about her abilities. Her teachers now realize that when spoken instructions are also provided in written form, Jennie's comprehension improves remarkably. Jennie's reading abilities also surprised both family and teachers. Now 12, she reads at the ninth-grade level and appears to have been a very good reader for many years.

Currently, Jennie spends half-days in a regular third-grade classroom in her hometown of Fayetteville, Tennessee. She attends regular reading, writing, music, physical education and art classes, and spends the rest of her time in a classroom for children with learning disabilities. Her goals include being fully included in regular third grade social studies and science classes before the school year is over.

Anthony Notte, a bright five-year-old with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, has been using computers since he was 15 months old. In fact, Anthony's family was referred to the Computer Center for People with disabilities (CCdA), the ATA center in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, by professionals in Anthony's early intervention program.

Anthony's first speech therapist believed it unlikely that Anthony would ever be able to talk. It seemed reasonable to [INCOMPLETE TEXT FROM ORIGINAL PUBLICATION]
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:the Alliance for Technology Access; adaptive technology for the handicapped
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Nov 1, 1995
Words:1426
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