Spring 1997, Vol. 8 No. 2
Like many assistive technology-enthusiasts, the TECH-NJ staff feels passionately about the potential of computer technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Sometimes, however, the lack of enthusiasm for assistive technology demonstrated by the actions of school districts, funding agencies, and others who "don't get it" seeps into our consciousness and starts to drag us down. We tend to lose sight of why we became advocates for the integration of assistive technology in our schools in the first place.
Fortunately someone usually comes along who reminds us of the importance of our work. In this case, that someone was a graduate student at TCNJ who explained in an essay why she was interested in participating in the TECH-NJ project. The following piece is printed with the permission of that student, Theresa Lupo.
I am interested in furthering my skills in education and assistive technology because of a note to mom and "Bojamma the Moose." During my student teaching experience at the Alfred I. DuPont Institute Children's Hospital, I began working with an eight-year-old student named Denise. Denise had been in the hospital for over a year following a series of strokes that caused her to become quadriplegic. She was learning to use on-screen scanning with a switch mounted under her chin to read a story and answer multiple choice questions for the MECC series, "Tim and the Cat." She was excited that she was able to do what the rest of her classmates could. Soon, she tried an alphabet scanning array with a word processing program. For the first time in almost a year, Denise had access to an independent method of written communication and typed a note to her mom.
To a chorus of groans, I distributed a writing assignment to my Computer I class at Community High School, a private school for students with severe learning disabilities. I had given them the first paragraph of a story and asked them to write the next five sentencces. After half on hour, seven of the eight students had completed the assignment using MacWrite and spellcheck. I allowed Bobby, a tall, energetic freshman with dyslexia, learning disabilities and Tourette's Syndrome, an extension. The following day he explained that he just was not finished with his story "Bojamma the Moose" and requested more time. About two months later, this student, labeled a "non-writer," watched his completed story spool from the dot-matrix printer, wrapped himself in the 30 pages of text and exclaimed, "I WROTE this!"
Technology provides access, motivation, independence and increased self-esteem for many special needs students. I have seen other students with disabilities, especially those who have previously met with academic failure, defy their "labels" using technology. While I am uncertain as to where my next classroom will be, I am sure that I will integrate technology into my lessons. I have seen the impact of my limited repertoire of skills, and I believe that increasing these skills will enable me to help an even greater number of students achieve their goals.
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