I started my 2010 year with a class of 30 year 7 students. One of those students was 11 year old AJ. AJ was a lovely girl with a very nice group of friends. She managed to access the same curriculum level as her peers. She loved to try everything the rest of the kids did, getting in the pool at swimming sports, designing an outfit to model in the wearable arts fashion show and singing with the Kapa Haka group.
AJ has cerebral palsy. She is in a wheelchair and cannot use her arms. She typed on her laptop using a wand attached to a helmet on the top of her head. Over the year I learnt a lot about how technology can support children like AJ. For people technology makes things easier for people with disabilities technology makes things possible.
The technology process is all about identifying a need and finding a solution. With the support of our wonderful ICT specialist, Linda Lehkre we managed to give AJ a lot more independence as the year passed by.
Without use of her arms AJ needed someone to hold a book and turn pages for her. As a toddler her experiences with books would have been different to others and we found that she wasn’t the sort of child who would eagerly read for enjoyment. Our first solution was to get ibooks downloaded onto her laptop, this was a part solution. She could now turn pages by herself, but still not a keen reader.
She can not talk so used a dynavox to communicate. The dynavox is big and bulky and takes time to set up. She couldn’t contribute to impromptu discussion as by time we moved the laptop out of the way, got the arm attached to her wheelchair and the dynavox on the conversation would be over. We attempted to use text edit, however it didn’t seem to be the answer for her.
|Stylus pen taped to her wand and wrapped in tinfoil.|
AJ had a full time teacher aide who would need to sit beside her all the time to provide help. Being able to press only one key at a time meant she could not use the mouse or access all keys on the keyboard. To type !@#$%^&*()_+ she needed her teacher aide to hold down the shift key. Our first solution to this problem was sticky keys. One of the biggest issues for AJ was her inability to use a mouse. She could not use the internet independently which was a major barrier to her learning.
I happened to be watching tv one morning and saw an advertisement for the ipad and wondered if it would work for AJ. I excitedly rushed to Linda to ask if it required a warm finger and if she’d loan us one of hers. She said she needed all ten of them but after some research offered a stylus pen instead. We sent AJ home for the holidays, at the end of term three with an ipad to trial. We taped a homemade stylus pen to her wand with so much tinfoil she looked like a spaceman. From this moment on AJ’s life has changed dramatically.