|Colorado's Device Loan Program for Schools|
In Colorado, the Department of Education funds a
comprehensive short-term device loan program and partners with the state's AT Act
program at the University of Colorado Denver to run it. The program is a
national model and distinguishes itself for providing access not only to device
loans, but also to extensive professional development, technical assistance,
and for marketing its services down to the level of the IEP team. In August, ATPN spoke with AT Partner's Christina
Perkins, MA CCC-SLP, and Sarah Barthel, MS, to learn about the Loan Bank: how
it got started, how it operates, the case they are building for its
cost-effectiveness, and what they have learned about getting the right
equipment to school-aged students with disabilities statewide. The following was
gleaned from that conversation.
The Loan Bank has grass roots origins. In the early 1980s a
group of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) organized to convince the Colorado
Department of Education to fund a statewide program to enable better services for
students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Through word of mouth, the program soon attracted
interest from therapists and educators working with students with all kinds of
disabilities. Originally known as SWAAC,
SWAAAC now includes an extra "A" for "Statewide Assistive
Technology and Augmentative and Alternative Communication."
SWAAAC team members convinced the Colorado Department of Education to invest in the Loan
Bank. A device loan bank, they argued, would help them identify the right
equipment for students, and help them demonstrate to schools why providing
comprehensive AT evaluations is cost-effective. It would allow for trial and
error as therapists work to "feature-match" devices to a student's specific abilities
and ensure that a device works well in all environments.
Today the Loan Bank makes possible systematic device trials
by SWAAAC team members in Colorado's schools as well as Early Intervention
specialists and participating Dept. of Vocational Rehabilitation counselors. In 1998 the Dept. of
Education contracted with AT Partners at the University of Colorado Denver to
manage the SWAAAC program.
Loan Bank Overview
Read the rest of Colorado's Device Loan Bank for Schools
Approximately 1800 devices are available for
Devices are provided for 6 week terms (including
2 weeks for shipping) with an option for one extension if there is no waiting
88% of devices are stored, maintained, and
shipped from AT Partners in Denver.
12% are maintained in Grand Junction, one of AT
Partners' two regional satellites.
The online loan bank inventory is available
for browsing by anyone.
The online "storefront" allows registered users
to make loan requests (these include SWAAAC team coordinators, registered Early
Intervention consultants, and registered Vocational Rehabilitation counselors).
SWAAAC's policies and procedures are reviewed
and agreed to online with each loan request. This is known as the "Team Agreement."
Software licenses are also managed through this Team
Agreement. Users agree to uninstall any software provided through the Loan Bank
at the end of the loan term.
Toolbox: Assistive Technology for Making Reading and Writing Tasks Easier for Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Thanks to Elsa M. Orellano,
Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP of Puerto Rico's AT Program (PRATP) for compiling these devices,
strategies, and resources and contributing them to ATPN.
The following strategies can help increase independence and minimize the joint stress and degeneration associated with writing and reading activities for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Angular Surfaces provide arm and forearm support while writing and help to keep a proper head and neck position.
- Pencil grips
manufactured in rubber or plastic, these provide a stable grip, increase writing coordination and precision, achieve a better pencil grip posture, and decrease the strength needed to manipulate writing tools. Foam, such as air conditioning pipe insulation or Styrofoam spheres, are effective for providing a better grip, better than wrapping a pencil with tape. On the market these items are available in different forms, so the student should have the opportunity to experiment with different types of pencil grips.
Read more AT for Reading and Writing...
Paper allows the student to have a copy of
the notes taken by other students in his or her class(es). This strategy helps compensate
for writing difficulties during lectures.
- Voice Recorders compensate for writing challenges, preventing
joint stress on the hands. They can be used to record classes, document
information, or task instructions. After class, the student can copy the
recorded information without time pressure and with needed breaks to avoid hand
pain and fatigue.
12 Online Resources for AT for Education
Read the rest of 12 Online Resources for AT for Education
- UDL Tech Toolkit. This is a very, very deep resource of FREE "universal design
for learning" tools! Categories include: apps, audio books, free
text-to-speech, graphic organizers, multimedia and digital storytelling, study
skills tools, literacy tools, writing tools, collaborative tools, research
tools, math tools, and tools to compensate for handwriting issues. This Wikispace
is organized by Karen Janowski (an assistive and educational technology consultant
in MA) and Joyce Valenza (a librarian extraordinaire in PA). Janowski also has a highly recommended blog: Teaching Every Student.
Educational Videos for K-12 Students to support the UDL classroom. The site aims to index and organize 50,000
educational videos by the end of 2010! Each video is categorized and accompanied
by a description, age level information, and rating. The site is
maintained by teachers and librarians and is foundation supported. Brought to
us by a co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger. Videos are not often captioned.
The Assistive Technology Training Online Project (ATTO). This site, from the University
of Buffalo, provides information on AT applications that help students with
disabilities learn in elementary classrooms; it includes online tutorials, AT
planning tools, and links. Funded by OSERS.
Need AT for Math? Check out this great video posted at the Virginia Department
of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at VCU's
Assistive Technology Blog. "Sometimes we just need a little memory jog to
remind us of some AT solutions we might consider when students are struggling
LD OnLine - Technology.
Many good articles about the use of technology for students with learning
disabilities. Included are general information, technology reviews, classroom
applications, and information on making the right decisions when integrating
A.T.TIPScast is an audio podcast produced
by Christopher Bugaj, co-author of The Practical and Fun Guide to AT in Public Schools. The podcast is also practical
and fun and usually less than 10 minutes long.
|Hot Resource: ATIA Conference Discount |
ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association, is holding its annual Chicago conference on October 27th-30th, 2010, and its Orlando conference January 26th-29th, 2011.
To receive a $30.00 discount on the cost of registration for either conference, use discount code: APCH.
Low-Tech Tip for Teaching Art: Table Tents!|
Thanks to Katie Ablard, MS OTR/L, for sending ATPN this
tip for the art room. Ablard is a school-based
occupational therapist for Maryland's Montgomery County public schools.
Table tents are a simple strategy to support visual learners in the art classroom. In the typical art classroom, multi-step instructions are given verbally at the beginning of each class. With table tents, these instructions are written out and/or presented graphically in a step-by-step format.
Some art teachers will make enough table tents for each table or pair of students. To make a table tent:
- Print out the directions on the bottom half of an 8 � x 11" piece of paper.
- Fold the piece of paper in half.
- Place the paper standing upright at the table and, voila, a table tent.
Students with autism, in particular, benefit when instructions are presented visually, but all students with difficulties following multi-step directions can benefit from table tents. Younger students can benefit from pictures/picture symbols to indicate each step, while students who are able to read can often use a simple list of written directions to know what to do.
Table tents reinforce reading skills: sight word vocabulary and art vocabulary. They also help a teacher to be extremely clear, concise, and explicit in his or her directions to the whole group. For many students, an explanation with fewer words yields greater understanding.
Have a comment?
1. Spotlight devices that have no waiting list. The
SWAAAC Loan Bank website includes a "Spotlight Items" page to help build
awareness of devices that are effective, but not well known. The program
reports that once spotlighted, these devices tend to move quickly and even
develop their own waiting lists. The spotlights are particularly successful
when they provide classroom suggestions for how devices may be used. The "Spotlight Items" page is updated monthly.
for Your Online Device Loan Listings from Colorado's AT Partners
2. Consider an "ask a question" link with each
device listing. SWAAAC browsers use these to reach the SWAAAC help desk to
3. Consider a "tell a friend" link with each device
listing. SWAAAC browsers can easily share device ideas with colleagues and
others thanks to this feature.
Have a comment?
Did You Know?
Vermont's AT School Swap Gains Traction
Vermont is taking a reuse approach to helping improve access
to AT in schools. Sharon Alderman, the VT AT Reuse Project Coordinator,
now has 23 Vermont Supervisory Unions signed up to begin swapping, lending, and
donating equipment to one another through the Vermont AT School Swap. The
program began, Alderman reports, in response to a need articulated by school
personnel: as a way to share equipment among schools and keep assistive
technology in the hands of students who benefit from using it.
Vermont is one of several states working on the AT School
Swap concept. A consortium of six New England states worked together to first
create GetATStuff.com, the Assistive Technology Exchange of New England. That
Craig's List-styled reuse website spurred the idea for a reuse site that might
serve schools and districts, a web-based tool to help organize AT inventories (uploaded
by schools), and advertise equipment needs as well as equipment available for
loan, donation, or trade. "What we heard from educators and administrators," Alderman
emphasizes, "is the need to keep devices in circulation once students graduate or
move out of district, provide professional support--a way to learn from each other about how the equipment worked in a real classroom--and also a way to better afford expensive equipment to enhance the learning experience."
The states are sharing resources and ideas. Arlene Lugo,
director of the Connecticut Tech Act project, took the lead with developing the
concept and with creating an ATSS website prototype based on the GetATStuff platform. Now the Massachusetts AT Act
program has received a Shapiro Foundation grant that will help fund improvements to this
prototype for the Massachusetts context, improvements that will be made
available to the other states.
"This kind of systems change takes time, but in
Vermont ATSS is beginning to gain traction," Alderman says. She also likes to quote Liz Persaud, training and
development coordinator at the Pass It On Center: "'Begin with the end in mind,'
is what she always says. The reports that many students and professionals are getting devices they need is inspiring."
While the website is not yet
fully functional, Alderman is signing up schools, registering users, and
distributing a monthly email digest to school-based participants. The email
includes a spread sheet of AT needs and AT that is currently available. It also
motivates readers with a success vignette about a completed school exchange and
the impact it is having for a student with a disability.
Attendees of ATIA Chicago 2010 can learn more about Vermont's
ATSS and talk with Sharon Alderman. She will be part of a presentation with the
Pass It On Center entitled, "Effective AT Reuse in School Systems" on October 29th. Her talk will focus on
the pros and cons of beginning an
exchange system for schools with a website component.
Have a comment?
Nifty Product: AT Consideration Quick Wheel
Don't forget the AT!
Specifically designed to help IEP teams as they consider the student's need for assistive technology, the wheel:
1. Presents valuable information about assistive technology in an easy-to-understand format.
2. Provides useful resources.
Created by the Technology and Media Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TAM). TAM reports that more than 100,000 copies of this tool have been distributed nationwide. Cost is $7.95 plus shipping. Find it at this Exceptional Innovations webpage