Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't Overlook the Little Things

A few years ago, I worked with a fourth grade student who struggled with reading and writing. He also exhibited behavior issues and would have frequent "meltdowns" when he had to complete a school assignment in cursive. It was his teacher's expectation to complete certain assignments using cursive writing. At home, he would do anything he could to avoid his written homework.

One day, I was observing in his classroom and witnessed the emotional breakdown. He had to write his spelling words in cursive and one word included the "os" cursive combination as in "most." That one was particularly troublesome and really set him off. He just couldn't get it to look right. (Try it. It's a difficult combination, especially if you struggle with cursive).

Later that day, we worked together using a computer. I had a chance to show him some of the fonts built into Microsoft Word and asked him to choose a font that looked good to him. As we tried all the various font choices, he zeroed in on a cursive font and said,"That's the one!" We also customized the size of the font and talked about how he could set it as the default font on his home computer.

A month later, I got a call from his mother. She told me that her son now came home from school, went to the computer and willingly completed his homework on his own, using the cursive font. She was ecstatic; the battles over writing assignments were over.

Sometimes, it's the solution that's right in front of our faces. And this one didn't cost anything.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Going Paperless - It's Not Just About the Environment

In celebration of Earth Day in April, an organized effort to reduce the use of paper, and in fact, go paperless, was spearheaded by Shelley Blake-Plock. About 1,500 teachers nationwide and beyond made the pledge to go paperless that day. A collaborative effort produced a Google Doc with numerous ways to give up paper in the classroom. The beauty of this document is the fact it was created by teachers, for teachers. No administrators were involved. No AT specialists were necessary.

What does this mean for us?
We know that too often, paper creates the disability for many students. In a non-paper environment, their disability disappears.

An invaluable document detailing typical activities using paper and paperless alternatives exists for all to use as a resource. There are great ideas and abundant resources here.

It's good teaching and it's Universal Design - embedding UDL principles proactively into instruction.

While I applaud the effort that started the paperless trend, I encourage you to join the paperless bandwagon for your students, not just for the environment.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Don't Take My Word For It (part 2)

Hearing how technology changes the lives of users with disabilities using their own words makes more of an impact than my words. A great article at the AT Mac blog describes how an adult web designer who is autistic utilizes readily available technology throughout his day, for communication, organization and managing trouble.
“I could not live without my iPhone”

How many times have you heard someone say that? Or something similar about a gadget, whether it’s an Apple device or otherwise? Well, for me, that's pretty much true. Welcome to the world of autism and assistive technology."

This is fantastic. I loved reading how technology helps Jamie Knight achieve greater independence. Technology makes a difference. It is about the tools and this article reinforces the importance of showing our students different tools so they can develop their own toolbelt for life beyond school.