Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Breakthrough Makes it All Worthwhile

Freedom and the control to choose is one of the basic rights we exercise everyday. When we are able to give that to a special needs student who has never really had the opportunity to control what they want and how much or how long, it is a special thing.
Yesterday I was working with one of our SLP's who wanted to experiment with a radio and some cause and effect activities with a middle school boy. We plugged the radio into an Ablenet Powerlink 3 and had a Big Red Switch set up with a timer. It only took about three or four attempts and some music to play for this student to get the idea that when he hit the switch he would hear music.
We had it on a local country station and Toby Keith was singing as this boy rocked to the beat. As soon as the music would stop, he would hit the switch to start it again and laugh and look at us all with absolute delight - he was making something go on his own and he really liked it.
We worked with some cause and effect animations with switch interface on the computer as well, but the visual was too subtle for him at this point. We took him back to the radio and he was excited to try music some more.
The assistants and teacher said that this was the first time they had found something he could respond to and make some kind of choice for. We are working to lay a foundation to expand into simple communication switch commands for cause and effect activities. It will be fun to see where it leads.
For those of you who have experienced this, you know what I mean, but for those of you who haven't, it's hard to convey the thrill it is to see a student have the light dawn that they have some element of control over something they like for the first time. It is a revelation and it just makes me all the more determined to keep working for the development of more for these kids.

All the best to you!



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Alicia said...

I know exactly what you mean. I have a student with whom we've been working on using a switch in "direct" or press and hold mode for, oh going on two years now. He just never seemed to understand and would get beyond frustrated that his activity didn't "work right" and not stay on after he activated the switch. He has severe CP, sensory impairments, and uses his head to activate switches so press and hold is not exactly easy for him. This week he "got" it. I caught him playing with a toy for the very first time ever (rather than just responding to a stimulus). He would hold the switch down for a few seconds, intentionally release it, laugh, and then hold it down again. He activated the switch when HE wanted to and didn't have to wait for a timer. He experimented with different lengths of time, switching on and off quickly, and waiting then slamming the switch. All the while laughing his head off in delight. Next week we're introducing two switches with different toys. It was definitely a "Lightbulb Moment."

anne marie said...

It's moments like this that makes my heart smile and reaffirms that all the efforts, time and TLC we share with "our students" is meaningful, worthwhile and needed. Reading this post was the perfect way to start my Friday-- BRAVO!!!

Lon said...

We are so fortunate to do what we do in spite of the set backs and slow progress. Thanks for sharing your victories and comments. You are having HUGE impact on students lives and the role you play is so important. Have a great Friday and a super weekend.