Date: March 11, 2020 Time: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm ET Location: Jeff’s Catering, Brewer, ME
This FREE event hosted by the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) is designed specifically for parents and caregivers, and includes a FREE Spaghetti dinner beginning at 5:00 pm, with the workshop to begin at 5:30 pm.
This workshop is a bonus after-hours opportunity for families to learn about ways that everyday objects can be transformed into Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT) solutions “on-the-fly.” Aiming to support caregiver recognition that high technology solutions for communication are not the only (or always the best) option families will be invited to participate in a make and take activity using everyday materials to support aided language modeling and to promote social interaction opportunities (e.g., recreation, literacy). Additionally, a brief overview of important things to consider in decision-making related to AAC systems will be offered.
Jennifer M. Seale, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maine. Her academic, research and clinical interests are focused on AAC science and practice. Dr. Seale has expertise providing AAC services to a diverse population, including individuals with Autism. Her research aims to inform AAC public policy, service delivery and product design using human computer interaction, interaction analysis and mixed-methodologies. She has presented her work in regional, national and international venues.
The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a leading national source for accessible educational content, providing services for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. Families and school personnel with early learners through Grade 12 students can register for free access to over 6,000 Educational Media titles on-demand and on DVD. DCMP’s Learning Center contains a wealth of information related to education, accessibility, deafness, blindness, and other related topics. DCMP provides Media Accessibility Guidelines through our Captioning Key and Description Key, used by media professionals as well as amateurs around the world.
The Described and Captioned Media Program provides premium media designed for students with disabilities and leads as a resource for families and teachers, supported by the federal Department of Education.
Map It: What Comes Nextis a free, online, interactive training designed for transition-aged students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The Getting a Job! online training was developed and designed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and the professionals who work with them. Focusing on the transition from school to work, the training offers a series of activities, supporting documents and topical videos designed to help the job seeker prepare for the world of work. All the videos in the modules are presented in ASL, and are also voiced in English and captioned.
Additional videos and resources include:
Real Life 101: College Prep – With college just ahead of them, the hosts visit with some people who help students prepare for this milestone.
Biz Kid$ – Public television’s Emmy Award-winning financial education series of 65 videos for teens and preteens. Each video has a lesson guide, and the Biz Kid$ website has many additional ideas for learning activities.
FARMINGTON – Interns at the University of Maine at Farmington have been working with students in Regional School Unit 21 this year, utilizing robots equipped with two-way communication devices in order to interact with their younger counterparts in Kennebunk.
Project Circuit is a new program supported by the Department of Education’s Maine CITE, an initiative aimed at improving access to assistive technologies for Maine students, residents and the elderly. Assistive technology is anything designed to remove barriers for a person with a disability – for students, this means improving their accessibility to programming. The UMF program is working with RSU 21 as that district is the first in the state to employ a certified assistive technology specialist, Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles. UMF interns are in instructor Kevin Good’s Assistive and Instructional Technology course, offered through the college’s Special Education program.
Good said that his course was designed to get future educators comfortable with technology like the telepresence robots. He tells his students that they are designers and makers, not just users of the technology.
“I’m pushing students to think through the process,” Good said. “I watch my students grow and change how they approach [new technology].”
The obvious use of the robot, which includes a two-way communication screen mounted on top of a wheel assembly, is to accommodate students that are unable to physically attend a class or event, Goldthwait-Fowles said. Students that are hospitalized or home-bound by an illness can continue to participate in their classes. However, there are potential uses for other disabilities as well. Students on the autism spectrum, for example, may not be able to attend a crowded event due to sensory overload. Educators may start by showing the student a copy of a class’ whiteboard, then move on to using the robot to allow the student to attend a class.
Beyond student-to-class usage, Good and Goldthwait-Fowles said, the robots also can allow others, such as the UMF interns, to work with K-12 students across the state. The system is on a secured network, Good said, but one that is globally accessible. This allows the UMF interns an earlier opportunity to work directly with K-12 students. At this point, Good likes to say, UMF can be anyplace it can send a robot.
“Anyone can access this and use this,” Goldthwait-Fowles said. While only RSU 21 has a full-time, on-site robot, others can be made available on a temporary basis for specific students.
Ben Jacobs, Accommodations Specialist at GA Tools for Life, and a gamer since childhood, doesn’t mince words about the significance of this release, “For a first-party company to acknowledge there’s a demographic they were missing and create a controller is amazing. Also, I can’t think of how to make this controller any better than it is.” In a recent article in the AT3 Center’s Monthly Blog, Jacobs goes on to explain: “The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) falls into the category of gorgeous AT. While its branding fits with other Xbox controllers, it is distinguished by two large responsive black buttons set in an elegant bone console. Jacobs stresses, however, that the central achievement of the XAC is how it works as a hub to allow for all kinds of customization.”
And, according to the touching video ad which shows a half dozen children using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, apparently it is a hit with kids. As one boy in the video says, “I love video games, my friends, my family and again video games…” The boy’s father, moved to tears, is later seen in the ad saying, “It’s his way if interacting with his friends when he can’t physically otherwise do it…”
For the AT techs and gamers, Jacobs notes the Controller houses 19 3.5 mm input jacks and two USB ports for switch accessibility to every function, a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to building a device that works within the existing AT ecosystem. He adds, “for gamers with motor disabilities, this is profound. The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s built-in buttons will work for some users (and the console is ready for mounting with three threaded holes), but the unit’s interoperability with third-party switches means individuals with an existing method of gaming on a PC can get quickly comfortable on the Xbox.”
“Whether it’s a head array or switches for use with a knee, however a gamer uses switches, they can use the Xbox controller,” Jacobs says.
Try Before You Buy
While the Xbox Adaptive Controller is reasonably priced at around $100 it is always great when you can “try it before you buy it” just to make sure a product is right for you or your family member. Fortunately, Kevin Good, Special Education faculty at the University of Maine Farmington and coordinator of the Center for Assistive Technology’s Collection of Assistive Technology (AT) at UMF anticipated this need and added TWO of the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the university’s AT collection. Supported by Maine CITE, Maine’s Assistive Technology Act program, the Adaptive Controllers are part of a statewide collection of AT that is available to all citizens of Maine. Information about these devices, and over 1,200 other assistive technology devices that are available to borrow on a short-term loan, may be found at AT4Maine.org the online repository for the UMF collection, as well as three other AT equipment loan centers in Maine.
We’ve included the video of the Xbox Adaptive Controller ad below on the chance that you haven’t seen it. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it.
As Owen, the boy in the video says, “What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”
Punch-In is a free resource for young adults with disabilities preparing for and seeking employment. One of the many offerings on the site is a free, online course to develop the skills and strategies necessary to be successful in career endeavors. Teachers and other professionals can set up a self-paced course to administered as group or individuals may take the course independently. The course includes over 100 high quality videos for instruction and advice. There is also a moderator for every course to assist and encourage students.
There are five content modules:
Discover Yourself (Module 1) – This module is designed for students who are beginning to prepare for a job search. It offers tools to examine strengths in any potential job and explore careers options.
Get Prepared (Module 2) – This module offers the foundational steps to develop your work readiness skills and jump into the critical steps of writing a good resume and cover letter.
Find A Job (Module 3)- The Find A Job module helps set a job search in motion. A job search includes the way you find out, apply, and interview for employment. The module also has a special section on networking skills using social media to locate employment opportunities.
Know Your Rights (Module 4) – Understanding one’s rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is critical in the employment process. This module is an introduction to the ADA and other disability laws.
Use Technology (Module 5) – This module is an introduction to Assistive Technology (AT). AT may be a critical component for a successful career.
The Maine Department of Labor’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (or “VR” as it‘s commonly referred to) provides services to transition-age youth with disabilities to help prepare them for employment. Every high school in Maine has an assigned VR Counselor.
With the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), there’s an increased national focus on making sure that young people with disabilities and their families start career planning early. To support this, VR is partnering with schools and organizations across the state to expand opportunities for high school students to learn about the world of work through “Pre-Employment Transition Services”.
Here are some examples:
Job Tours/Job Shadows
Self-Advocacy/Independent Living Skills
Group Career Preparation Activities
Additionally, VR has a number of career assessment tools and helpful labor market information that can assist students to learn about education requirements, projected openings, and wage information for their career fields of interest.
In addition to providing FREE iPads, laptops and internet access, Grahamtastic has a fleet of nine robots it has been lending to schools since 2013.
According to spokesperson, Leslie Morissette, “…currently all nine of our robots are being used but … we are always accepting new applications. If the school is far from Springvale, Maine (when the foundation is located) we ship our robots to the schools. We shipped one to Fort Kent yesterday.”
The device, called “Double” is a remote student-controlled robotic device that is able to navigate through the school and allow the student to attend classes and interact with students and teachers from home. The device was created by a company called Double Robotics a California-based technology company. As noted in the Press Herald article:
“Double is an iPad mounted on wheels that Abby (the student) is able to remotely control over Wi-Fi. Think Skype on a Segway.
“‘It acts as your double,’ says Sara Broyles, communications manager Double Robotics Inc., the company that created the ‘telepresence’ robot that Abby uses. ‘It gives you a physical presence where you can’t be in person.'”