Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Scott's IEP Includes Technology: The Guzzo Family's Journey

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Scott's IEP Includes Technology: The Guzzo Family's Journey

Article excerpt

AS OUREIGHT-YEAR OLD SON SCOTT BEGINS HIS THIRD year of special education in the public school System, we experience feelings of pride as well as concern. We are very proud of the progress Scott is making. Our expectations are continuously raised as he shows his ever increasing desire and willingness to learn.

Yet we are concerned that this desire and willingness may someday be limited by his physical disabilities.

Our primary concern involves his communication skills.

Scott has little speech, and his writing skills are currently limited to his own name.

Communication Problems

The first few years of Scott's life were centered on his surgeries and development of gross motor skills. During this time it was recognized that his receptive communication skills far exceeded his expressive skills. By the age of three, we were looking for ways to help him express himself. We eventually found that sign language worked for us. We pursued this aggressively. By age four, he had a sign vocabulary of about 250 words that he recognized and signed. Unfortunately, we later discovered that while we could understand most of his signs, they were too imprecise to be understood by people outside our family.

Our next plan involved manual communication books. This showed potential as Scott could make sentences that were meaningful to others, but he was frustrated by his inability to turn pages and find the words he wanted quickly enough to get his sentences put together in a reasonable amount of time.

However, another problem was that, just like the signing, these books were silent. He still had to get our attention when he wanted to tell us something.

By the time he was five, we had "discovered" electronic communication devices. With the help of our insurance company, he soon had a Phonic Ear VOIS 136. We went like gang-busters on it for six months or so. He used it in his preschool total communication class along with signing. This worked as long as the VOIS was placed in his reach. Since Scott only weighed about 25 pounds at the time and used a wheelchair, walker or crawling to get around, there was no way he could lug it around by himself. He depended on others to place it in front of him and to change his overlays. While his teachers and therapists were willing to do this, it did not give him the spontaneous communication he wanted. At home, we continued to understand his signs (usually) and the VOIS was used infrequently.

In September of 1989, Scott began his first year in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. He was placed in a self-contained classroom with eight other children who also had multiple disabilities. At the request of his new teacher, I (Paula) spent the first two days at school familiarizing the teacher, aides, therapists and other staff with Scott and his equipment. We discussed the use of the VOIS and agreed that we would continue to program it and make the overlays as needed.

As the school year progressed, however, we soon realized that the VOIS remained virtually unused.

Assistive Technology Involvement

In April 1990, the special education director of our school corporation put together a multidisciplinary team to evaluate children for assistive technology I was asked to be a parent advisor to this team. This was our first formal involvement with any organized promotion of assistive technology (A.T.). The first year of this team's existence was spent preparing themselves to competently conduct evaluations. This included training on hardware, software and methods of access for children who could not use the conventional keyboard.

It was through this team involvement that we had the opportunity to attend the national RESNA conference in june 1990 in Washington, D.C. It was at this conference that we learned of P.L. 100-407, the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988. …

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