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Expert Assistive Technology Advice

Interview with Joan Green, Founder of Innovative Speech Therapy

by Janet Price, Regional Director of Community Education and Transition, CLE Rockville

Joan Green is a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist, and founder of Innovative Speech Therapy. She is a nationally recognized expert on assistive technology and author of several books, including The Ultimate Guide to Assistive Technology in Special Education: Resources for Education, Intervention and Rehabilitation, 2nd Edition. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of assistive technology and new developments in the field with Joan.

Joan Green

CLE: How has assistive technology changed over time?

Joan: When I began to work with assistive technology about 30 years ago, touch screens and special needs software and devices cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Because of this, technology was managed by specialists who were the gatekeepers to these very expensive products. Usually, only the most severely impacted had access to these types of technology. This landscape has changed dramatically. Now, most people use computers, tablets or phones that can replicate many of the same features for free or at very little cost. They just may not know how or when to use them to help with reading, writing, organizing and managing their time.

CLE: What considerations should a student or family take into account when deciding what kinds of assistive technology might meet their needs?

Joan: There’s a framework that most AT professionals follow called SETT. The “S” in SETT stands for Student, which is always the first consideration. You need to take into account individual strengths and weaknesses. The “E” stands for Environment. Where will the student be using the technology? Who will be providing support? The first “T” in SETT stands for Tasks. What does the student hope to accomplish? And the final “T” is technology – it is only after the first three factors are taken into consideration that you begin to look at how to match technology.

CLE: What programs or apps do you typically recommend?

Joan: google-keep-test-colors2-620x387A lot of the Google Chrome Apps and Extensions are free or low cost and can be accessed by any device or computer. Some of these are: Read and Write for Google, Google Calendar, and Google Keep, which helps visually organize your tasks and can share notes with other people and create reminders. I also like Voice Dream Reader for reading digital text on an iOS device, Co-writer for word prediction and text to speech as you write and I especially like Snap Type. With Snap Type, if you’re given a worksheet and you can’t write, you can take a picture of it with an iOS device and the app enables you to type or dictate text into the worksheet. You used to need a program like Kurzweil to do this. Recording audio as you write is also useful. The Livescribe pen does this, and so does the Notability App. Speech to text and text to speech functions are also built into just about every device.

CLE: Are there any drawbacks to assistive technology?

Joan: Students don’t want to be seen as different, or needing a crutch or “cheating,” and a student might reject support if other students look unfavorably upon it. We try to use the least intrusive way to provide support, and the simplest option available to minimize frustration.

Newsletter Articles – February 2016

Video games can teach social skills

Like it or not, the appearance and methodology of socialization are changing in our kids and young adults. As technology becomes a greater part of our everyday lives, it makes sense that our everyday practices may be influenced both negatively and positively by its tremendous pull. Video games were first popularized when I was a young child; however, they were an activity that was by and large used in free time while parents encouraged their children to engage in more “constructive activities,” such as social play.

These days, gaming is more intricately entwined with socialization. All “next generation” systems have modalities to play remotely with other users, game publishers are taking advantage of social gaming by publishing more games that give clear advantages to people who play with others, and more group-based games are being published. The boundary between socialization and gaming is becoming less and less clear, and we as professionals and parents need to evolve along with technology if we truly want to impact students on the autism spectrum or with other special needs in a positive way.

Joshua Ruiz of CLE Davie

Assistive Technology is changing the world for individuals with special or diverse needs. With advanced technology vastly improving, individuals-including neurotypicals-use this modern, advanced technology for everyday tasks such as phone calls, messaging, email, Facebook, and Twitter. But some individuals with disabilities have a hard time using technology. One of my friends, Abel, has cerebral palsy and he is not able to communicate or move at all. He uses a special device that has a button on the head of his chair. When he moves his head he is able to communicate with others but it is also difficult for him to use this equipment. He uses all of his effort to control this system, which is incredible.

Savannah at CLE Costa Mesa

Assistive technology is a tool used by many individuals in the world, which has an astounding amount of advantages to the support it provides. Not only does this technology serve useful to the general public, but especially the autism spectrum population. It allows individuals on the spectrum to communicate with those around them by assisting them in their communication and socialization skills. It also helps with many executive functioning aspects such as organizing, planning, problem solving, etc. Assistive technology is truly an amazing platform that serves multiple purposes throughout people’s lives.

The pros and cons of video games and their impact on social development.

Parents, have you ever walked in while your child was playing a video game and thought, “They are just wasting brain cells?” Students, as gamers have you ever thought, “I just have to make it past this level,” and refused to give up until you beat it? Are there arguments for both of these scenarios being reasonable? We are going to look further into the world of gaming.

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.