January 19, 2011

The Path to Assistive Technology

The Judy Ann Buffmire Rehabilitation Service Center

Bertrand's speech therapist through the Pingree Center for Autism set up a meeting at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) with a technology specialist there, his wonderful teacher from Pingree and his new speech therapist from his new special ed preschool. This meeting helped us lay the ground work for his assistive technology evaluation with the regional Utah Augmentative Alternative Assistive Communication and Technology (UAAACT) Team. UAAACT is a project of the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation / Utah Center for Assistive Technology dedicated to improving the communication skills of students with disabilities across the state of Utah.

Matthew and I went into the meeting looking to get ideas on how to make the most out of Bertrand's iPad. We expected to get the names of appropriate apps and test drive them--which we did. But, some of the most useful information from the meeting came in the form of brain storming ways to gauge the effects of Bertrand's motor issues/movement disorder versus the effects of his cognitive abilities. And, how to capitalize on some of Bertrand's motor strengths such as spinning objects with his hands and his ability to stare pointedly at items. Bottomline, before even delving into the iPad, there are a lot of old school analog techniques which are very concrete that may set Bertrand up for immediate success.

For example, using actual objects to choose from, as opposed to using drawings or even photos of the objects in an iPad app, would be a great way to start systemetizing his communication. We do this already when having him choose between books or toys but, as one of the speech therapists pointed out, an even better test is the choice between a bottle/food and something uninteresting, like a gardening glove. This way we know the choice is actually his and not ours.

So both Daddy and Mama came away with homework from this meeting. (Daddy can have fun writing up his plans in an independent post when he isn't so swamped with work.) I am going to start off with buying a bunch of plain-colored, plastic placemats and putting a line of electrical tape down the center of each. Bertrand's will have one of these new "choosing mats" for his wheelchair, highchair, both schools, and one on every floor of our house. We'll start using the mats to present tests, choices, dichotomies... first using objects and then maybe photos, and get to know what Bertrand thinks. Give him a voice--some power. That alone could make for a much happier young man!


  1. Sounds fascinating...

    You may have to teach me all of this! We don't have that kind of resource here :)

  2. As I'm sure Matthew has pointed out, this calls for a binary search technique :)

  3. Excellent. Well, I don't mean more work for you and Matthew is excellent, just that are ways to help Bertrand learn and people who can guide that process.

    I hope other parents seek-out similar centers in their local areas or states. Having lived in 5 different states I believe something like UAAACT exists in each state.


  4. We've been working on the same things with little John who, like B, doesn't have the motor skills to show how much he really knows! Little John's motor skills are at a 5-month level but his cognitive abilites are at least 9 months, probably higher given that his receptive language is at age level, but we can't measure them well because of the motor delays. You've already given me some good ideas for working with him.

  5. I ran across your post through my google alerts. I hope it is okay to link to your blog through our UCAT website. I am so glad our specialist could help give you some ideas on how Bertrand can be more independent and happy.