by Orah Raia

Fall 1998, Vol. 10 No. 1

Francine Kartzman had been a speech pathologist for 30 years and never thought that computers had a place in speech therapy, until she attended the Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Computers and Assistive Technology conference in May 1997, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Education, TECH-NJ at The College of New Jersey, and NJ TARP. Mrs. Kartzman was so inspired by what she learned at the conference that she made the decision to return to school to learn more about technology. In fact, in January 1998 she enrolled in a master's level course entitled Assistive Technology offered by the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

Adapting Software to Meet Special Needs

Mrs. Kartzman works for the Highland Park School District, known for its philosophy of inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms in neighborhood schools. When she returned from the conference in May 1997, she decided to turn on the Power Mac computer in her room and began to experiment with the preloaded software that came with the Mac. I observed her nine months later on a typical morning during which a number of students, all with different needs, came to her room for speech therapy.

Mrs. Kartzman used a very common application, Simple Text, with her first group of students. They were capable of reading but had very poor comprehension. The students were each given a set of three picture cards and were asked to compose three sentences related to the pictures. She typed their sentences into a Simple Text document. She then took advantage of Simple Text's recording feature and had each student record their sentences into the computer. Afterwards, she played back the sentences. The students were delighted to hear their sentences read aloud in their own voices. This activity provided both visual and auditory feedback of their work. She then printed out their sentences so they could take them home to practice.

The next group of students had very limited expressive language. Mrs. Kartzman likes to use the Living Books series by Broderbund with them because the programs are entertaining and provide excellent opportunities for expressive language. The series contains children's literature titles such as Just Grandma & Me, The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, Arthur's Teacher Trouble, and The Cat in the Hat. Each page of the story is read aloud by the computer, and the individual words are highlighted as they are read. In addition, each page contains a number of "hot spots," which when clicked, perform surprising animations. For example, a tree may come alive and dance or sing when clicked. I observed students working with Stellaluna. With each page, Mrs. Kartzman asked the children which objects to click. They would instinctively use their finger to point to the object, but she would remind them to use their voices instead. In this way, the children were provided with many opportunities to use expressive language for a purpose. She asked many open-ended questions about what they were seeing on the screen in order to provide them with opportunities to answer in complete sentences.

For younger students Mrs. Kartzman used Edmark's Bailey's Book House and Millie's Math House to enhance language while teaching early learning concepts. She recommends the program My House by Laureate Learning Systems for teaching functional vocabulary about common items found around the house.

In another instance, Mrs. Kartzman used the Living Books series with a young boy who has multiple disabilities. She commented that before she started using the computer with him, he could not pay attention for longer than three minute intervals. With Just Grandma and Me, Mrs. Kartzman was able to hold his attention to the page on the screen while he waited for his favorite page, the one with the hot dog. He mimicked all the characters and knew what was coming up before the next page was turned. I asked her how many times he had seen this program, expecting her to tell me over a dozen times. It had only been 2-3 times! He was able to sit through 15 minutes, all the while sitting closely to the screen, mesmerized by the pictures and sounds, grinning from ear to ear.

Davidson's Magic Tale Series has worked well for fourth graders who are studying Ellis Island. These multicultural tales from Russia, Japan, Africa, Ireland, Italy, and Native America stress universal virtues of kindness, sharing, courage and generosity, and they blend well with this unit lesson. She also works collaboratively with the fourth grade teacher using the program, If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island (Scholastic).

Special Software

Another application Mrs. Kartzman recommends is Co:Writer by Don Johnston Incorporated. Co:Writer is a word prediction program designed for students who struggle with writing due to language delay, learning disabilities or physical disabilities. As students type the first letter of a word, a numbered list of words is displayed on the screen. If the correct word is displayed, the student just types in its corresponding number, and the word appears in the typed sentence. Students' typing ability and speed is enhanced, so their efforts are focused on generating the sentence rather than on the mechanics of typing. The speech output feature of Co:Writer helps students who have reading difficulties or visual perceptual problems.

Mrs. Kartzman is eagerly looking forward to learning more about the computer and the applications available. She takes advantage of all software preview opportunities at workshops and conferences. Mrs. Kartzman is eager to share her knowledge with her colleagues, and would like to see ongoing training for staff at the district level. She is clearly an example of a professional who, having witnessed the benefits technology can provide to her students, has committed herself to furthering her own technology skills.

Product Information:

Don Johnston Incorporated

Bailey's Book HouseMillie's Math House

Living Books:
Arthur's Birthday Deluxe
Arthur's Computer Adventure
Arthur's Reading Race
Arthur's Teacher Trouble
Cat in The Hat
Dr. Seuss's ABC
Green Eggs & Ham
Just Grandma & Me Deluxe
Little Monster at School
Sheila Rae The Brave
The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight
The Berenstain Bears In the Dark
The Tortoise & the Hare


Orah Raia is an alumna of the graduate program of the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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