Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is it a Mystery? Self-accommodation Needs Information and Self-Awareness

Assistive technology has been a unfamiliar concept for many living in my rural Eastern Oregon region, but in the past 5 years I have been working on building a program, and this fall we have begun to see the efforts pay off. I have been literally overwhelmed with new requests for evaluations, observations, new students, personal development trainings, involvement in accessible instructional materials directions state-wide (not to mention spending every waking minute not at work, spent underneath our home built in 1897, excavating and leveling and putting in new beams - and shutting 'er up before the snow flies - I live high in the mountains).
I am FINALLY at a place where I can sit by the crackling fire in the wood stove this evening, after my son practiced his fiddle tunes and his spelling words, to play some cards and then write on my blog - a dear friend I have missed but have been much too preoccupied this past few months.
I haven't meant to neglect my AT writing but there has been too much going on in life lately to chronicle. I think I have been on overload. It is like walking through a buffet line and not knowing what to try first. There have been many students and many ideas and new relationships built.

I wanted to share about a high school girl I drove to see way out in the boondocks in a small community who has central auditory processing issues and has low grades as an eighth grader. I was asked to come and observe and do an evaluation based on her needing support to write and get her ideas down. I observed her in a language arts class, write an essay on the computer. She could write on the fly and use the spell checker and word prediction well. She could do the mechanics, but the teacher spent a lot of time with her trying to get her to flesh out the main ideas and words that emphasized the major points. She wasn't quite getting that.

I visited with her afterward and explained that I was there to help her with some ways to write and organize her thoughts. I asked her:
"The papers in your file say that you have a central auditory processing disorder. Do you know what that is?" I asked.
She shook her head "No".
"It's like this," I said, "Do you ever feel like your brain is like a radio and you hear what people tell you but you can't tune in the station clear enough so later you can't remember what you were supposed to do?"

Her eyes got big and she nodded, "yes".

I started to share ideas, "What if we were to work on finding some tools, maybe a voice recorder to help you remember. You can have teachers say directions, instructions - maybe even record a class where they tell everyone a lot of important information for a test. You can use this to help you get it again."

I shared how we could set up a special binder with pockets to hold cards that tell her what the big picture ideas are in a class or steps to a project. We are going to have the staff that work with her in for a meeting and talk about low and mid tech and what might best support her.

I think the "take home" for me was that I was talking to an eighth grader who had never been told what her learning disorder was or how to accommodate for it.
In order to be successful, students with disabilities need to know what they have going on and what tools best will give them the life skills they need to succeed independently in life.
Let's take the mystery out of the issues our students face. Let's help them understand how things can be different and they can begin to have power over what they can read study and write. Empowerment and independence is what it is all about!

All the best,



SARAH said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It's bad enough that the general public is unaware of the various disabilities that exist, but when someone is struggling to get along because they don't know how they can be independent, we're in trouble.

Thanks for sharing!

Michael said...

Welcome back, Lon. I can certainly understand how life can just overcome one. Thanks for continuing to blog.

Lon said...

Thanks for your comments. It is good to be "back" again. I have missed writing but have been on the overwhelmed side. Maybe once my gears get revved up again I will be back in the flow. I am enjoying writing about things that are meaningful - not just to fill space. Your comments mean a lot.