Sunday, June 8, 2014

Assistive Technologies Week 10 Summary

I randomly selected Week #10, Universality and Considerations for Diversity. I have no prior experience with Assistive Technology except for peripherally (circulating it from the library) so I figured I would learn something any week I chose.  When I first read this week's material, I thought, "That sounds like common sense. Don't our we all do that?" I then started thinking about our time constraints as educators and the diverse populations our schools serve. Finally, I got curious and asked some of my SpEd colleagues about some of the situations they may have encountered at our culturally diverse school.

This week's readings dealt with Universal Design for Learning and with integrating Assistive Technology into a Culturally Diverse population, specifically preschoolers. I teach at a school where there are quite a few ELL students. Some read well in their native tongue and poorly in English. Some read poorly in both languages. I started wondering if maybe there could be undiagnosed - or soon-to-be-diagnosed - disabilities there.  Because most of our cohort has participated in PPT's, for the first question, I asked my classmates to draw from their own experience or talk to a Special Ed colleague who has had a difficult time providing services to a child due to the child's cultural background. I could have asked more specifically about AT, but that is less common and most of the challenges would be similar.

Most responses included some kind of language barrier. Even with a translator, there was a disconnect in the translation of unfamiliar American school and legal jargon. I remember learning in our Literacy Praxis class that it is important to use the language of your profession if you want to be taken seriously. Parents, especially immigrant parents, have no background in the technical language of American education, Special Ed and Assistive Technology. In this case, we need to break things down and explain things as simply as practical. In some of our scenarios, the professionals persisted and the child got services. In others they did not. Other situations are still in progress.

My second question involved responding to a scenario of choice from our group's first reflections. Using the chart on page 361 in the Parette and Brotherson reading, I asked my classmates to respond to the communication between the school and the child's family as if they were an exemplary professional. Was it "The Right person, asking the Right questions, of the Right person(s) the Right way at the Right time and the Right place?" If done more conscientiously or with more finesse, what "Right" might have helped the situation progress. In a perfect world without time constraints or other issues that distract us, each of us has a strong grasp on what should ideally be done. I am always amazed at the insight and the the diversity of this group.

Some observations:
Parents often do not feel like part of the PPT team, even though they are often the most important members.
If there is a language barrier, something can be misinterpreted and a child could be punished for it.
It is important to find out about the family dynamic and expectations in all situations.
The fear of a stigma can cause a parent to reject SpEd or AT services.
With persistence and making sure the "Right" things are done, it is possible to help a child.

I started this entry be explaining that the readings made perfect sense. "Don't we all do that?" Upon reflection, I believe we try. We don't just try with those who are of a different culture or who have learning disabilities or need AT. We try with every student we encounter to the best of our ability. The readings this week have called to my attention some of the challenges we encounter as we try our best to help every child learn.