Imagine being in high school and not being able to communicate your needs, wants, desires and opinions.
Sure, your immediate family has been able to figure out what you mean when you make certain gestures or sounds. But for your entire life, you’ve mostly been at the mercy of someone else: to order your favorite snack or lunch, to offer you the toy that calms you, or to watch a movie.
You’ve never been able to tell people about your family, birthday and pets.
Confined to a wheelchair, the pad which lets you indicate “yes” or “no” answers to questions – your only form of communication – is only on your chair a few minutes a day to order your lunch.
You have a lot to say, but because of the physical structure of your mouth, most people cannot understand what you’re saying.
You’ve never had technology available to help you communicate, so just learning to use a device is a new challenge.
Imagine that you have no voice.
Welcome to the world where Seth, Hannah, Lindsey, Jordan, Andrea and Katie have lived their entire lives.
These six Essential Skills students at Franklin Community High School had no voice until the high school made a commitment that every student would have a computer. Because Franklin High School is inclusive, Matt Sprout, Franklin Community Schools Technology Director, approached the Special Services Department, to ask whether Essential Skills students would benefit from the Google Chromebooks being purchased for the general student population.
Eric Woodke, Assistant Coordinator of Special Services, said, “For many of our Special Education students, the Chromebook was definitely something they could use. But there was a small group of students that it wasn’t going to be helpful for.”
With help from Special Services Johnson County speech therapist Casey Wepsic, Eric, Matt and others worked together to identify iPads as a good device for these students to use.
After additional research, Casey landed upon an “app” called TouchChat and applied to Franklin Education Connection’s Education Foundation for a grant called “My Voice.”
TouchChat works like this: a student’s iPad can be customized for favorite phrases, foods, and a voice (male or female, different accents, etc.). When the student touches the screen and then touches “play,” the computer voice tells the world what the student wants to say.
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