It seems easy to count the weeks at the beginning of the semester, but after 7 or 8 one can lose count, so I’ll switch to inserting the date. This week was interesting in all sorts of different reasons. On Monday Ann and I went to Cholla High School to work with a teacher in a mostly self-contained classroom (no windows in the room), and the SLP for the school. The teacher was looking for outside assistance in different computer and environmental control access methods for two of her students. Ann requested a foot mouse to trial with them from the lending library so I tested it out over the weekend. It worked fine for me, but it was already rather complicated. I don’t know what I expected when I saw the words, foot mouse, but it really was identical to any other mouse, except that it had a strap to stay onto my foot. The other foot was then used for left and right click, plus other shortcuts like a double click, cut and paste, and computer functions like that which could be specified between programs. Great idea in theory, but it was difficult to use accurately, for me anyway.
When we got to the school we started with the first student and setting them up with the footmouse. The interesting part about using a mouse is that you usually need a flat surface. When the student in in a reclined position with their wheelchair, it is difficult to get their foot to sit exactly perpendicular to the floor in order to give the mouse a flat surface to work with. We tried books and angles to raise the mouse up and give him an inclined but flat surface, but then realized many other issues, such as the space and ability needed for the second foot to come into play and activate the mouse. Long story short, this really did not work. I do not know what I expected when the teacher said they had a computer specifically for the two students to use, but there was nothing on it for them to be doing academically, or for recreation. So I looked into some websites for games that do not require a mouse click. Doing random searches for these is not nearly as simple as having a few websites available ahead of time, but we found a few that mostly worked. But the main issue that needed to be overcome was the “click” so the footmouse at least on that day was not an appropriate options.
After all this we looked into how the student typically is able to access a computer or program and they showed us a chin switch. It was an interesting apparatus, with a cable that went around the next and positioned it below the chin. But it was a small switch, a little smaller than a baseball, and required a lot of focus to activate it. Plus the student’s wheelchair was not fitting correctly, so when he would focus on using the mouse or activating the switch his whole body would fall out of alignment and a good portion of his upper body was off the wheelchair and hanging over a wheel.
The other student had more verbal abilities, but wanted some control over his environment, such as being able to activate a radio with an x-10 box (switch inputs, turns whatever is plugged into it on or off, either on a timer or latch (on/off). He did not have the range of movement in his foot to use the mouse, so we looked at the movements he could consistently make on his body. His foot could go up on command, but not down, so we looked at putting a switch right above his foot. He also had control of his index finger and could move it towards his hand, so we tried switches in both places and with switches of different sizes. The hand switch was more fatiguing for him, but both are worth considering in the future.
This eventually led to conversations, especially with the SLP, to what the purposes were for these switches and what the goals were for the students. The environmental control goals for one student were reasonable and explanatory, but the first student and the teacher’s desire for “computer access” was a bit vague. This seems a little difficult to understand, but I think it’s similar to how someone hears about eyegaze and wants to use it, without looking into the reasons why they need to use eyegaze and what other access methods have been tried and even what works well already. There are no simple or miracle fixes, but people like to think that there are, especially when it comes to eyegaze or other modern devices.
That was Monday. Wednesday I went to an elementary school in the Flowing Wells district and worked with a Speech Pathologist as she worked with different groups of children with different types of disabilities. That was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed working with all the different ages of students. They were far more verbal that the students from Monday, so it was a large adjustment, but it was a lot of fun. I learned that it can be ok and helpful to mess with the students and help them think about the answers they are giving and the questions they are asked. I suppose we could call that critical thinking. I hope to go back to that school, it was a really interesting group of students. With the older group we used a smart board and I wrote and drew on the screen as they were speaking so they could see the words they were saying and the sentences they were making. I think it helped having multiple formats for the material available at the same time, and that’s something that was really helpful to draw on from my ELL classes over the summer.
Thursday we worked at the library in Casa Grande on the AAC and Visual supports presentation for the next Grant Team/TLC training. After everything in the week there’s not too much to say about this, but it was fun to be able to work with Ann and her counterpart, Mary from Phoenix.
Friday a box arrived with multiple switches and a head tracker. I spent the morning figuring and trying out each, making sure everything worked and had working batteries. I took a short video of me using a voice activated switch with a throat mic. We’ll be trying out more of these on Monday as well as speaking with the AT people from TUSD to discuss existing options in the district for the students from last week.
George Sabin/Fran Krakow classroom
look at Deer Valley, where general ed and special ed teachers co-teach together in all the classrooms.
Valencia Middle School may be similar.
Need a general and special education teacher that is comfortable with these strategies and willing to work together.
Special Education teachers are specialists at strategies for teaching, instead of content.
Looked at access methods for 2 students this morning for computer access, reading, writing, and literacy.
TUSD process, have to go through appropriate channels and get correct forms signed.
“hand holding” through AT trial process
First student, needs computer access….but for what purpose. Look at what the end goal is and how it relates to the curriculum
“Ronald Reagan philosophy, there is no limit that what you can do if you don’t mind who gets the credit”. paraphrased quote
“trust but verify”
Multiple avenues for teaching reading, not just phonetically based approaches.
Refugee status with DDD: what services are provided when you have Refugee status (in Arizona)