SC Curriculum Access through AT

Spotlights on Success

Throughout South Carolina, students, teachers, educators and parents have worked together to use assistive technology to achieve amazing results for students with disabilities. Following are just a few examples of the achievements being made in our state.

Spotlight One: Richland One high school student uses augmentative communication

Spotlight Two: Lexington One high school student uses voice-activated software

Spotlight Three: Abbeville pre-school student accesses his classroom through assistive technology and videoconferencing

Spotlight Four: Lexington One high school student uses assistive technology for writing

Spotlight Five: SC School for the Deaf and Blind employee uses assistive technology for educational and career success

Spotlight One: Wintrell back to top

In Richland School District One, Wintrell has been using the same augmentative communication device for about three years.

Caption for first still picture: Wintrell participates fully in his class at Columbia High.

Caption for second still picture: Wintrell is able to give personal information and answer questions using his augmentative communication device, which changes screens according to the topic he needs.

Wintrell is able to participate very naturally in a class discussion with SLP Victoria Osborne about the class thanksgiving party.

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Wintrell uses his device with a dynamic keyboard to tell Victoria that he ate:  turkey, stuffing, string beans, brown rice, rolls, tea, and potato pie. He also says that it was all “real good.”

While Wintrell was in the hospital for surgery, his communication device was programmed to interact with hospital staff by saying things like, “Thumbs up on your food. If you leave me in here, I’ll gain 20 lbs.,” “Bring in that pretty nurse again,” “You sure are cute” to nurses, and “Get me out of here!” to doctors.

Spotlight Two: Mary Ann back to top

Mary Ann is a very bright high school student senior who has been using voice-activated software for about three years. Because Mary Ann had a bad cold, the following video does not accurately reflect the speed and accuracy that Mary Ann usually achieves when using this software, but it does give some idea of how she is able to move through complex documents and write at a high academic level.

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Mary Ann speaks into her headset with microphone to edit a paper she has written on Billie Holliday. She gives dictation and voice commands to delete and correct the document. A picture of the screen shows editing of the document as she dictates.

Caption for still picture: The positioning of the microphone is important for most effective use of voice-activated software.

Caption still picture: Mary Ann uses a combination of mouse and voice-activated software to work most efficiently on the computer.

Randi Cogswell, Mary Ann’s OT, emphasizes that Mary Ann’s progress has developed through the years.

“Mary Ann had attempted to use a previous version of the software in middle school, which was not successful for her. This was brought to our attention as Mary Ann entered high school. She did not have the consistency of voice output needed to be successful with the previous generation of this software. The most current generation of Dragon Dictate, Naturally Speaking was purchased and proved to be more effective. Also, a higher quality microphone/headset was purchased. Better microphones seemed to make a significant difference in the software's ability to interpret her speech. Mary Anne has used it for a variety of assignments in subjects such as English and Social Studies. Mary Ann is capable of handwriting with short assignments but fatigues quickly with lengthier written assignments.”

Spotlight Three: Jonathan back to top

Jonathan was born with a Prune Belly (Eagle-Barrett) Syndrome. He has had numerous surgeries, including a cochlear implant and a kidney transplant. He is homebound because of his suppressed immune system.

When Abbeville School District’s special education director Ann Davis was presented with Jonathan’s situation, they thought creatively about how his needs might be met. She took the challenge to their IT Director Matt Kimsey. Their first thought was that, if high schools could use distance education, why couldn’t it be done from someone’s home?

Caption for first still picture of Jonathan’s house: They worked with the local cable company and an Atlanta company to connect Jonathan’s house.

Caption for next picture of the school building: with a regular education class at the elementary school.

Ann Davis talks about how it happened.

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It took a matter of seconds for people to latch on that this was something they really needed to do, and what it could mean for just public relations in their firms. So that’s how I think the phone company, the cable company, even the software company… This is a use of our technology that can really change a child’s life, and that’s what made the difference for them. And once they started talking about it, everyone got excited and everyone was, “What can we do how can we get this going?”  And we had to have this in place by the time school started. So they came up from Atlanta and trained the teachers and everybody, trained mom, installed the equipment and we were off and running by the time school started.

Caption before next video segment: When asked how their approach impacted the cost of special education services, Ann responds:

Well, it changes how special ed is done. And so that you’ve got: it’s a different way of delivering service. It’s not the traditional model of him having to be in a classroom, and going down the hall to the special ed classroom, or having that teacher come in there. It’s very individualized, which is the whole point of IDEA, to bring in the technology and all the services to meet that individual child’s needs.

Caption for still picture in video segment after Ann Davis’ remarks: Jonathan has a home classroom set up with many of the same materials as his classmates use.

Caption for next still picture: Jonathan uses a color-coded, simplified keyboard to access his computer.

Caption for next still picture: He works with his mother at the computer and can see the regular classroom at any time during the day.

Caption for last still picture: The classroom TV shows Jonathan at home.

Jonathan can participate in class activities as they are going on, and students can interact with him at the same time.

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The teacher has the class doing exercises, counting by twos, as Jonathan does the same at home and can be seen in the classroom monitor. They then do months of the year with the exercise and Jonathan follows along.

His teacher comes to his house once a week for one-to-one instruction and works with him individually during the day during her classroom planning period and recess.

Linda Flores, his speech therapist, works with him at home.

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Jonathan types at the computer using a special, color-coded enlarged keyboard with Linda Flores. Caption within video segment: Linda explains how the interaction with his peers helps his language development.

Text of Linda’s interview: It’s two folded. Jonathan has access to some social interaction with other children that he would not necessarily have here in the home. And as far as the language is concerned, he is being exposed to a variety of situations which will also improve his ability to communicate and give him the experience he needs in order to develop language skills.

Caption between video segments: One reason Jonathan is moving towards grade level work is the fact that he’s able to do his class work consistently. Ann Davis explains how this happens.

Text of Ann Davis’ remarks: He is below right now but you would expect that with a child with the disabilities he has. But he’s moving pretty fast and he’s picked up quite a bit in the last couple years. For example, before he had his implant, he had no expressive language at all and since that and with speech therapy and with the other services he’s moved forward quite a bit.

His teacher Tricia Davis admits that she was nervous when she first heard that he was going to be in her class. The technology has been easy to use, hasn’t had any technical problems, and the class moves smoothly as if he’s a regular part of the class. Abbeville Elementary School principal Barry Jacks agrees, adding that a critical factor is his mother’s ability to keep him on task at home.

His mother Kerry explains how it has impacted his education.

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The school district has been an absolute blessing. They have been beyond what I would have ever imagined for them to have done. I was thinking that maybe he would be home-schooled and maybe that somebody would come in here and there and teach him some things, but I never could have imagined that this kind of set up, that this could have been set up in my home.

Caption before still picture of Jonathan looking out the sliding glass doors of his home: While being at home might have been a barrier to Jonathan’s progress in school,

Caption before next still picture of Jonathan looking at the camera:

Jonathan is progressing and feeling good about his progress, with the help of his family’s commitment and a school district willing to use assistive technology in the most creative ways.

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Well, it all started with Jonathan, and looking at Jonathan and what, how special he was and what he needed. And then once people met him and said, “This is a really neat kid, we’ve got to do something for this child,” and it just blossomed.

Spotlight Four: Daniel back to top

Daniel is a student who has been using a portable word processor, enlarged keyboards and keyguards for several years. He is shown here with his mother Glennie.

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My name’s Daniel Ahern, and in tenth grade I got Alphasmart about 3-4 years ago. My grandma gave it to me and it’s a really good present because it helped me during school. I type on it for English and Resource. And you hook it up to a printer and it “zaps” and goes through a printer and it’s light.

Caption before next video clip: Daniel had this to say when asked about writing essays for class.

When my teacher gives me an essay I use this device. It’s easy and you can have the:--  The AlphaSmart doesn’t come with the keyguard, but I like the keyguard because I want to hit “D” but I hit “S” accidentally sometimes, so the key guard really helps me. His mom asks: “How many programs does it have?” Daniel responds: It has eight files and it automatically saves. Some people wonder where is the save button, but you just cut it off and cut it back on and it saves automatically.

Caption before next video clip: Daniel doesn’t see himself as different from other students because he needs this kind of technology.

I think it’s helpful, not just for handicapped kids, but for other kids that have trouble writing. It helps them.

Caption before next video clip: He summarizes the features of this portable word processor that have made it a good tool for him.

You use Alphasmart good because it prints out good, and it’s portable, and light. (he winks)

Spotlight Five: Marty back to top

Marty McKenzie is the Access Technology Coordinator for the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind. Through his work with students and teachers, Marty has become a statewide resource for issues dealing with technology for the visually impaired. He has taught high school to visually impaired students in Richland District One and holds a Master’s Degree in education of the visually impaired from USC.

For a number of years Marty has served as adjunct professor in the Vision Education program at USC in Columbia and at the new program at USC-Spartanburg. His courses have included Nature of the Visually Impaired, Braille, Access Technology and Educational Procedures for Teachers of the Visually Impaired. Marty is a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of SC, the South Carolina Chapter of the Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and the Consumer Advisory Council of the SC Commission for the Blind. Marty also serves as consultant to the NFB Computer Science Committee. Marty has also been selected as one of 25 outstanding leaders at the NFB Leadership Training Conference. Marty also plays organ and piano at his church.

Blind since birth, Marty talks about his early experiences with assistive technology.

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I came through school in the dark ages, so to speak, of technology and in elementary school. The most important thing I had was an electric, not an electronic, an electric typewriter. There was also a closed circuit TV which enlarged the print on the TV for me, and then I used some magnifying glasses.

Caption between video clips: When asked about the difference that assistive technology makes to the education of students, Marty had this to say. 

I often refer to it as the great equalizer. It places the children who do not have multiple disabilities, in particular, on a playing field that is equal to their sighted peers. They can compete on an equal basis in the school system and in the higher education arena. It opens doors that were previously closed in the past and opens doors for job opportunities that were just not there even ten years ago.

Caption before final video clip: For Marty, assistive technology has made a tremendous difference in his life, as he explains…

It is the difference between independence and dependence for me. It means that I have a job and that I can do that job without any assistance. It means I can manage my personal affairs and my home without assistance.

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