Doing Your Homework as a Parent Looking at Assistive Technology
Part 2 of 3 in a Series:
When we say "Do your homework" what do we mean? Well it covers quite a bit of ground.
1. Know the law is in your favor
For starters you need to look at the law and know that your child has, by legal mandate (FAPE and IDEA), the right to the same education as every other student. Whatever assistive technology can be found that will support the child so they can succeed and access the curriculum with all the other students, that technology is required to be provided for that student - especially once it is written into an IEP. Which brings us to the second item to research - looking at the support product.
2. Look at Vendors and Costs
This is the particular technology needed and any cost you can find on it. You can look at AT sites to see equipment descriptions and prices, but if you aren't sure even where to start, what do you do?
3. Find local support
Use your special education department in your school district and your school counselor to find out what county and state agencies might supply an assistive technology specialist that can help in assessing your child. Many times an educational cooperative or service district will hire therapists and specialists under a contract paid by a kitty of pooled funds from all the districts using the services. This means that you can request an evaluation be done for your child and these folks should be scheduled to come assess.
4. Look on the Web for Parent Groups and Forums
There are many special interest groups on Google and Yahoo and AOL that deal with specific conditions and disabilities. You can probably tap these to find out what people are using as an AT support for their children.
5. Find Blogs
This blog you are on is one of many on learning disabilities, physical conditions, and assistive technology. You will find adults with disabilities that have blogs and talk about what they use for AT. They will share links to other blogs that you can go to and read also. There are specialty blogs that look at very specific sub-categories of disabilities or technology. Once you find some blogs with good lists of links to other bloggers' sites, you will find that one leads to another and the information becomes mammoth. Just try typing "learning disability blog" into a Google and see what you get - pages and pages! Get more specific with the name of the disability in your search and it should get more focused.
6. Find other parents that have children with the same issues
I have a friend that told me when he was 21 and a new father of a LD child with a certain syndrome, he and his wife went and saw another family with a child older than theirs that had the same condition. He said it was so good for him to see this older girl and how she related to them. He had been imagining the worst for the future and after he saw this girl and how she was, he thought, "I can do this." He was encouraged to see that the future, although not exact, at least was manageable in his mind. That went a long way towards peace of mind.
These are just some general tips to get you started. I hope that this gives you a jumping off place. If you would like some specific ideas on where to start looking, you can email me at my address on the sidebar. If I know of any sites to point you towards, I'll try. I have one more post in this series to share next time.
(If you wished I had links to resources in the text above, there are just so many I could not even begin to dive into it here. I am working on an AT support multi media bundle at a very low cost that will have specific training on these steps, an overview of AT basics with hyperlinks and illustrations as well as a set of tutorials and videos. There will also be a do it yourself kit included with projects you can design and build with all free software resources. It has been a huge undertaking and will save folks a lot of Internet search time, but it is taking me a lot of time to get collected and edited. I have been trying to get it ready to be available in April - we'll see how it goes.)
All the best to you,