My 7 year old has been receiving Ocupational Therapy since she was diagnosed at 3 and from day one therapists and teachers have tried to improve her fine motor skills. It’s been almost 4 years of countless hours spent working on her writing with therapists at school and after school and with me at home. Still, she has so much difficulty that after writing her name she is exhausted and even thought there has been a lot of improvement, most of her writing is still illegible. Last year while I attended a conference I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman and advocate, the mom of a young man with CP as well as several adults who have motor skill challenges just like my daughter. They told me how they had gone through similar situations and how today none of them use a pen or pencil to write; they use a computer just like everyone else. They told me how frustrated they felt when they where expected to do something that they physically could not do and they made me realize not only the absurdity of my quest but the fact that I was missing what was most important: giving my daughter the tools so she could write. I learned a very valuable and hard lesson, my daughter’s disability is natural for her. It is life long and she is not broken, she doesn’t need fixing.
WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
Assistive technology should be the first resource and not the last. Assistive technology is technology used to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, it can include anything from a wheelchair to computer software.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AND WRITING
If a child can learn to write, that is wonderful. But if a child’s writing is illegible and handwriting is a frustrating task then it’s time to move on to a computer. The earlier a child familiarizes himself with the technology that can help him write, the better.
Last year my daughter had to remain in a separate ESE (exceptional student education) classroom because she had “extensive needs.” Today she is being included in a regular classroom thanks to technology. She uses a special keyboard with a tablet or a computer to do her work both in school and at home along with specialized software which enables her to write legibly and quickly. She can now keep up with regular classroom lessons and with her peers in the classroom.
There have been so many advances in technology and children and adults with physical, developmental or learning disabilities can take advantage of so many devices, tools, programs, etc. to help them write. There are a wide variety of computer models, tablets, keyboards, accessories and software including eye-gaze software for students with no hand/arm movement. Children with limited hand function may use a keyboard with large keys or a special mouse to operate a computer. Children who are blind may use software that reads text on the screen in a computer-generated voice. Children with low vision may use software that enlarges screen content. Children who are deaf may use a TTY (text telephone) and people with speech impairments may use a device that speaks out loud as they enter text via a keyboard.
Today instead of spending countless hours trying to hold a pencil correctly, my little girl works with her therapists to improve her keyboard skills and she has gone from hating writing to loving it, because now she has the right tools to succeed at it.
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