School Based Support Team Training on Assistive Technology
Edit Microsystems were invited to give training to representatives from 30 full service schools on the use of assistive devices to support learners in inclusive full service schools.
Recognising that teachers, and often even therapists, are not always aware of the latest range of assistive technology available or how to go about choosing and implementing a device to support a learner in class, the department of education arranged a training session for school based support teams. In consultation with the department, the workshop was customised to suit the needs and prior knowledge of the audience.
AAC and AT
The 3-day workshop began with a broad introduction to assistive technology, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and the difference between the two concepts. While many people use the two terms interchangeably, there is in fact a subtle difference. Assistive technology is a broad concept encompassing any item of equipment, tool, product or system (even a mainstream product) that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability. AAC refers to any communication method that is used to supplement or replace speech or writing by someone with complex communication needs, such as AAC communication devices.
We then gave an overview of the current range of assistive devices on the market today, with examples of the types of users that benefit from this technology. One incredible example of how assistive technology is changing learners’ lives that amazed the participants was the eBraille Project for the blind. The introduction covered tools for the blind and visually impaired, deaf and hearing impaired, physically disabled, and intellectually impaired, as well as a range of specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, dyscalculia and ADHD.
After their introduction to different assistive devices for physical disabilities, participants had fun role playing scenarios and problem solving with different types of assistive devices.
AAC Devices and Communication Board Making
The second day of the workshop explored communication board making software and AAC devices. Participants found the new Matrix Maker software to be simple and fun to use, especially when compared to the traditional board making software. Participants thoroughly enjoyed designing and creating their own communication boards for use in the classroom. We explored the wide range of AAC devices available, from simple, low tech single message communicators and multiple message communicators, to advanced head tracking and eye tracking solutions that utilise communication software or educational software for all abilities. Each teacher had a chance to try out the different devices and experience how easy they are to use.
The third and final day focused on the steps participants would take to implement and further their new knowledge, including sharing of resources and signing up for further online training. Particiapants experienced linking up with a resource center via Bridgit video conferencing, and were shown how to sign up and use Skype. Each participant received a USB flash stick with training materials and videos. We ended with revision, reflection and group brainstorming on issues related to inclusive education and the SIAS Process.
Comments on the feedback forms handed out on the final day were very positive. Some of the participant comments were:
“Facilitator was very active and had knowledge of what she was doing. She gave everyone the chance to ask questions and she strives to excellence”
“The facilitator was knowledgable and we enjoyed each and every moment of her lessons”
“The facilitator was friendly, she was fully prepared and she made sure that everyone is participating and I understood every single session”
“I liked the use of the different Assistive Devices for specific disabilities, introduction to the different devices, touching them and using them to practise assisting disabled learners was wonderful”
“The facilitator knows her stuff, she is so patient and loves her work”
Assistive Technology Training Offering
We believe that training of this nature is crucial in all provinces to ensure the success of inclusive education. Adequate assistive technology (AT) training means that appropriate choices of assistive devices will be made and devices will be more effectively used to the ultimate benefit of the learner.
Please contact us to arrange training for your school, district or provincial department. All training courses are tailored to suit the needs and level of the audience, and training materials are provided, as well as contact details to arrange follow-up online training and support.
We also offer 1-on-1 consultations to assist your SBST or therapist to choose the right device for the child. Please contact us for more information.