Thank you Wildhorse Foundation! Our OT/PT department and my A.T. department, received an $11,000 grant from the Wildhorse Casino's Foundation for funding mid-tech speech devices and assistive equipment for the Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education programs in our region. About 530 children will be expected to benefit from this donation and the training and equipment it provides.
We were able to purchase Boardmaker software for every classroom last year and I went around and held training sessions to use it. We were finding that our 2, 4 and 8 cell recordable talking devices, like the Super Talker, were being checked out for trials and then we were having a hard time getting them back because they were working so well to support students. We finally decided that it was time to find a way to purchase a speech device for each classroom and train the staff on implementation along with low tech projects for using the Boardmaker software.
We had a low-tech "Make one, Take one" workshop this spring where teachers came up to our offices and we had all the laminators, laptops and printers, velcro, felt pens, cardboard, foam, etc. ready. Teachers made 2 of each project so we had one for a checkout library and the teacher could take one with them. We are trying to build a low tech materials sample library so SLP's and Autism specialists have some samples to take out and show to teachers, assistants and have for examples in IEP meetings.
My recent conversation with Ellen Witham, who will be my guest next Tuesday, led us to discuss the important prerequisite steps in developing low-tech picture symbol recognition and tying it to cause and effect and language development. We discussed the development of that into the next step of using a Tech Talk type device, a Super Talker, Go Talk devices (try the Go Talk One as an inexpensive tool @ $12 each), etc. as a transfer into more advanced mid-tech speech output. Our conversation moved on to the high-tech devices such as a Dynavox V with a sequential series of levels that allows the device and the user to grow through 3 phases of language skills and communication through their InterACCT Language Framework .
I have loaded a 180 day demo copy of the Dynvox software on a laptop that can go out to schools and be used as a trial for a while. If it looks like something that could fit, we can have the Dynavox sales rep customize one and bring it out for up to a 2 week trial on the actual device.
I am excited to see the possibilities of working with the tools made available to us through the Wildhorse grant and the development of high-tech devices for younger learners.
We have students in middle school and high school that have not accessed a device for communication yet due to past practices that steered away from items because of high price tags. We are aware of many avenues of funding now that takes the burden of cost away from familiies and school districts. We can begin to relax and work on implementing a good supportive communication program that supports and trains our SLP's in AAC use and also gets students who are ready for it, a device as early as first grade to start supporting literacy and language development where they can grow and move along with their peers. Wouldn't that be great?
If you are interested in hearing our conversation along these lines, listen to the No Limits 2 Learning Live segment on Blog Talk Radio on Tuesday, June 24th at 10:30 am Pacific time.
All the best to you!