Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Talking Computer

We saw Ms. C, Aidan’s Augmentative Communication Specialist, and we tried the new Impulse Switch. This switch is a brand new, cutting edge device that uses wireless Bluetooth technology similar in function and size to a Bluetooth for your mobile phone. It has sensor pads on the underside which can be affixed to a specific muscle and sense its movement. For Aidan, since his smile is his best, most reliable form of communication, we were trying the Impulse Switch on his cheek muscle. It’s supposed to work with the Dynavox, a dynamic communication system with visual and auditory outputs. When the device visually and auditorily scans through his choices, Aidan would make a selection by smiling, and thus the Impulse Switch would trigger the device and make the selection for him. That’s the idea any way…But, Aidan was having a particularly bad day with his body, posturing a lot and grimacing and orally groping. So the switch was not going to be that helpful. Morever, Ms. C tried exhaustively to get the Impulse Switch to work with the Dynavox and it just would not. Definitely not a plug-n-play device. Apparently, the Impulse Switch works well with a laptop and appropriate software. But, that would have to be something that I would have to purchase. But, given Aidan’s difficulties with his body, we decided at this point in time to abandon the idea of the Impulse Switch. Because the switch costs nearly $2000, Ms. C convinced the company to loan it to her for a 2 week trial period for Aidan. The point of access to communication has always been the biggest challenge with Aidan. We’ve tried for him using his right foot to kick a string switch, but that movement ends up being a little taxing for his body some times. He might get excited and kick to make his selection but then he can’t relax his body enough to release the kick appropriately. So, with all these unresolved issues, we decided to simplify the use of the Dynavox and just make it very basic where Ms. T would read out his choices on the screen and based on Aidan's smile make the selection for him. Our priority was to just get the Dynavox into the classroom with Aidan so that he could get used to using it and get the kids and teachers more comfortable seeing him with it.

And...apparently the Dynavox (the kids call it, Aidan's Talking Computer) has been a big hit in the classroom! The kids love it! And everyone seems to gather around him whenever he has it. Ms. T is getting comfortable with it and Miss L, the Inclusion Facilitator, is starting to work with it and adapt class lessons and input programs into it. It'll be a learning process as to how to incorporate it as his communication device as an included member of the class.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Finally…We have bus!!

After about 4 weeks of calling, hounding, fist-slamming,…talking to 8 different people in 4 different departments...we have bus! Seriously, I have not experienced a more disjointed and inefficient process than in dealing with the school district’s Transportation Department. Getting them to resolve the bus issue for Aidan was like pushing an elephant thru a key hole!!? It was hurdle after hurdle after hurdle. First, someone didn’t put him in the system for bussing. Then, they got him in but it was incorrect. Then, they put him on a ridiculous 2 ½ hour route to get to a school which is just 10 minutes away. Because of that, I felt compelled to hit them with a doctor’s note limiting his ride time to no more than 45 minutes. At which time, they then seemed to have invented to a new rule where the school district’s doctor had to examine him and approve the bus ride limitation. When I mentioned this rule to other transportation district personnel, they had never heard of it. And…when we showed up to see the district doctor, he did not even lay a finger on Aidan! Even the doctor said it was a formality and as long as we had our own doctor’s note he would approve it. What a waste of time and energy! Then they said because we live in a gated community, we had to have a Private Property permit. What?? When Aidan had bus transportation before, that was never required. It’s as if they have to give you road block after road block before they will let you coast! After I gave the Transportation Manager an earful for his department dragging their feet and not doing their job right, we finally, finally, got the bus!
What happens to those kids with moms that have to work, and don’t speak English and don’t complain? It appears to me that they try to make it hard for the parent, and make parents jump through hoops to get what they want. And if the parents are dedicated enough and squawk loud enough, then they might get what they want….but surely, the district is not going to make it easy for them! What about the families with both parents working that have to rely on the bus to transport their child to school…do they just not go to school?? Something is very wrong about that…

*Certain names have been changed to protect individuals' privacy.

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