Assistive Technology Center

by Ann Pearce, Talking Books/Children’s Consultant

Manhattan Public Library’s Assistive Technology Center is the recipient of a $2,500 matching grant from Pilot International Foundation and the Little Apple Pilot Club.  This is the third and final year of this grant.  The grant has enabled the library to upgrade the Assistive Technology Center with new furniture, computers, software, and the addition of devices including an  iPad, Kindle Touch, and a Livescribe Smartpen.
The focus of the grant this year is service to children.  The Center is equipped with different software solutions in the areas of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and math.  One such software solution is the family of programs from the company, Inspiration.  Inspiration is recognized as a leader in visual thinking and learning.  Inspiration has been available for several years in the Assistive Technology Center, and we have just added Kidspiration for younger children, and Inspiration Maps app for the iPad.  Visual thinking is a style of learning that presents concepts in a visual way such as diagramming and outlining.  To understand visual thinking, it’s easiest to think about brainstorming and being able to quickly put your thoughts down by either using images, words, or both.  For many students, the writing process can be overwhelming.  By using visually mapping, this process can be broken down into more manageable components.  The user can then edit the content, and when ready, the software can convert the images to a traditional text outline.
Along with software and the addition of devices, part of the grant monies have been used to purchase books concerning brain health and related topics for the library’s collection.  I recently read one of the books purchased, All About IEPs: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About IEPs by Peter W. D. Wright, Pamela Darr Wright, and Sandra Webb O’Connor.  The school year has begun and for many students, their Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an important component in their pursuit of an education.  For many students and parents, the IEP process can be daunting.  This is a self-help book that takes the reader from the planning stages to resolving disputes with the school and everything in between.  The authors have included a helpful glossary of terms and a list of the statutes and regulations pertaining to IEPs.
The book is divided into chapters related to the issues and decisions each IEP team needs to address, from measurable goals to transition after school.  One chapter is devoted to the use of assistive or adaptive technology.  The law defines an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”  Some of the assistive technologies that can benefit students with disabilities include text-to-speech, voice recognition, word prediction, screen readers, screen magnification, and talking dictionaries.  Dr. Katherine Seelman, associate dean of rehabilitation science and technology at the University of Pittsburgh, is quoted in the book as saying, “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier.  For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
The authors of this book are no strangers to special education.  Peter Wright is an attorney who represents children with special needs and their families.  Pamela Wright is a psychotherapist with training in psychology and clinical social work.  Sandra O’Connor is the editor of “The Special Ed Advocate,” a newsletter about special education legal issues.
The Assistive Technology Center is a community resource equipped with technological solutions for children.  Parents, teachers, and children are encouraged to take advantage of this resource.  If you would like more information, or if you would like to make an appointment, call the library at 785-776-4741, extension 202.  The Assistive Technology Center is open twenty hours a week from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for Wednesday, with hours from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

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