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Monday, December 30, 2013

Assistive Technology

Jan Cawthorne, Mesa Public Schools’ special-education director, said assistive technology is not new for her district or many others receiving the grant money. What is new is the portability of many devices — and a coolness factor that didn’t exist before the iPad, she said.

Since the advent of tablet computers, more special-education students and their parents are requesting devices from school districts, she said.

Assistive technology used to mean big, clunky things that kids were embarrassed to be seen with,” Cawthorne said. “Now, it is a cool thing to use.”
The story quotes  Patricia Geraghty, Mesa Public Schools’ director of training and compliance:
“When you give non-verbal kids devices, sometimes you find out they know a lot more than you realize,” Geraghty said. 
It also quotes teacher Emy Lydford:
“They are able to express so much more. We can move faster,” she said.
Lydford said the “talkers,” as she calls the vocal tablets, also help students develop better relationships with each other — and with kids they encounter on the playground and bus.

In The Autistic Brain, Temple Grandin explains:
Tablets, for example, have a tremendous advantage over plain old computers, even laptops: You don't have to take your eyes off the screen. Usually typing is a two-step process. First you look at the keyboard, then you look at the screen to see what you have typed. That could be one step two many for someone with severe cognitive problems. Before tablets, a therapist would have to mount the keyboard of a desktop computer on a box so that it was right below where the print was appearing on the screen.In tablets, however, the keyboard is actually part of the screen, so eye movement from keyboard to the letter being typed is minimal. Cause and effect have a much clearer correlation. That difference could well be meaningful in terms of allowing people with extreme sensory problems to tell us what it's like to be them.