Mark is a bright, intelligent young man. Unfortunately, his body does not allow him to express his creativity and intelligence. Mark is wheel-chair bound and unable to communicate. However, his eyes light up as it is his turn to push the big red button to make a smoothie. He laughs after he turns on the blender.
Technology has opened doors for many children and adults with disabilities. Assistive and adaptive technology gives individuals like Mark, the ability to participate in classroom activities. Items like the big red switch connected a power link allow those with limited mobility the opportunity to tap one button to turn on a toaster or a hair dryer or a blender and even a computer.
“It gives them an opportunity to participate and do something independently,” said Melissa Cornelius, Director of Curriculum and Staff Training. “Many of our participants need assistance with most of their daily tasks, including personal care needs. This technology gives them independence.”
Mark’s ability also impresses staff. Many do not realize that even though Mark’s body is constricted, his mind is not. It is exciting to watch a new skill develop.
“I call it the Ah-Ha moment,” says Melissa. It’s the moment when both the participant and the staff realize there is more to be learned.
For individuals with limited mobility or speech, technology is helping to open communication and learning. Talk blocks are electronic blocks with prerecorded words or phrases. Individuals who are nonverbal can tap the block to say “good morning,” or to answer a question.
“The talk blocks have been very helpful in our literacy domain,” said Melissa. The staff will put up a vocabulary wall and ask questions about the words. The talk blocks have the vocabulary word prerecorded and participants who may not be able to speak will tap the correct block in response to the questions.
The Arc recently purchased 16 iPads with specific applications thanks to a grant from Rackspace. iPads and other touch-screen devices have made tremendous breakthroughs in helping children and adults with autism, Down Syndrome and other disabilities communicate thoughts, emotions and needs. The applications include picture boards that allow our non-verbal participants the ability to form sentences.
“It really is amazing,” said Melissa.