Posted in Assistive Technology, Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Cost Effective School-Based Assistive Technology Programs

By now, almost every school district has an Assistive Technology Program. Many students have access to graphic organizer, text to speech and word prediction software within their classrooms or at least in a computer lab. But, that is a BIG BUT, does the district have to provide computers for home use?  Not in my opinion!

School districts are switching over to Google and Google Apps for students to use while at school.  This allows the student to have a school-based e-mail with access to Google Drive.  Documents created in school with Google Apps can then be opened and worked on at home.

Companies, licensing assistive technology software to districts, provide a number of options for sharing this programming for the students to use at home.  This may come in the form of a web based version or an actual disc or thumb drive that a parent can use to load the software onto their home computer.

If students can access work from school at home and then have the assistive technology software available on their home computers, there is no reason for students to have a device to carry back and forth from home to school.

It is my belief that students should have two e-mail addresses to access between home and school.  One, of course, should be their g-mail account through Google and the other should be an Outlook account through Outlook.com.  One might think that a g-mail account would suffice.  It might if the student has no executive function issues and is very well organized. However, that Microsoft Office Suite that we know and have grown to love, has the best digital notebook program EVER!  Yes I mean, EVER!  Microsoft OneNote comes with every version of the Microsoft Office Suite.  If you have the Microsoft Office Suite, you have OneNote. School districts have had this programming forever and never knew it!

If you create an Outlook account, you have OneNote!  There is a modified version within your Outlook account, along with Word, PowerPoint and Excel. What is not to like?  Then the absolute best thing is to download the the free OneNote App.  Yes, that’s right, I said free!  With this app, a student can have access to his or her notes anywhere there is an internet connection!

The absolute best case scenario is to have the Microsoft Office Suite on your home computer.  Create your notebooks at home and store them within your Outlook account.  When you create your notebook, choose the web option as the location to store your notebook.  Under web location, log in with your Outlook log on and password.  You will use the same log on and password to open your notebook within the app on your iPad or Android device.

Setting up your notebooks from your home computer through the Microsoft Office Suite provides many more options, with my favorite option being the template feature.  This saves oodles of time.  Just add the template to your notebooks from your home computer and their will magically appear on your other devices. You can scan handouts and homework assignments into the notebook at home or photograph them with your tablet or phone when in school or in the community.  The best part about this program is IT IS AN AUTOSAVE PROGRAM!  If you forget to save something, no big deal, once you put it in a notebook, it is there until you take it out.

Microsoft OneNote is a life saver.

  • Parents never again will have to run to school with a forgotten assignment, as long as, the student put the assignment in their OneNote Notebook.
  • Is it time for a notebook review by your teacher?  Share the notebook with your teacher!
  • Left your notes in school and you have a test tomorrow?  Access your notes anywhere there is an internet connection.
  • Organize your OneNote Notebooks just like you would your paper notebooks or binders.  You can easily add tabs for sections and add new pages to each section.

I like my OneNote notebooks better than Evernote. There are organizational features in OneNote that Evernote cannot match. OneNote is easy to use. Open your notebook to where you need to add a new assignment then either use a scanner (if your at home) or take a photo of the assignment. It will go right to the place that you have open. Nothing could be easier.

So going back to the original topic of cost effective assistive technology, with the availability of a number of free options that work across platforms (PC or Mac), there is really no reason to provide each student with a device to take home. Students are entitled to a free and appropriate education but not necessarily a free computer.  If assistive technology is needed, then absolutely provide it. Send home the software but not a device.

Of course we all worry about where our tax dollars are being spent and in my opinion, sending home devices with students can be a huge waste of our tax dollars. There is an easy solution and we should take advantage of it. Yes, there are homes without internet or even a computer. Recently, many local libraries have begun distributing free wireless devices for internet access to families in need. Netbooks are a reasonable option, for those students requiring assistive technology, and who are without computers in the home. The netbook can be left at home and returned to the district at the end of the school year.  While there may be some normal wear and tear on the netbooks, there should not be damaged from transporting the devices repeatedly to and from school.

In my opinion, internet should be free and accessible to everyone.  If you need something faster than what is a free connection, then go ahead and pay for the faster service.

With the onset of a new technological age, where technology is the norm rather than the exception, we need to be just as careful about our money as we are about educating our students.

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Creating Digital Notebooks

Reduce frustration for you and your child

Organization Group NewsIt is difficult for some students to get through school well organized.  Parents, teacher and even students become frustrated with missing homework assignments, notes out of order torn or even missing altogether.  When frustration ensues, it is easy to become argumentative, which is counter-productive to getting work done.

It is my goal to support your efforts to help your child by taking that task over. Creating digital notebooks with your child, there is little worry about losing important work.

Children with Executive Function Disorder have difficulty performing “activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. ”

Using technology I can help your child manage all that paperwork and not feel so frustrated.  Just think, once a document is loaded into the correct digital notebook, it will never be lost.  If your child loses a paper document that has been uploaded, all he or she needs to do is print out the document.

When teachers request that the student present a notebook, the notebook can be e-mailed to the teacher.  If the teacher will not accept a digital form of this notebook, the notebook can be printed.

Notebooks will be available, in real-time, on the web allowing access in any location with an internet connection by simply using a log-on and password.

Less frustration for all makes home and school life smoother. Please feel free to call for further information.  631-629-4699

 

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

So Why Should Occupational Therapists Bother to Write Rubrics?

Mostly, therapists read my posts on social media and then move on. Some comment positively and others, not at all. But then there are those times when there  is that one person who challenges you. I must say, that one person tends to get my fight on! I feel that I have to prove my work all over again. But I really love the debate. To those of you who feel that rubrics are not necessary, that’s okay. However, I feel they are.
Rubrics have been around for a very long time. During my research for my book, “Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy“I found that rubrics actually began not in the educational field but in the medical field, decades ago. I feel that rubrics were lost in the shuffle in part due to the changes in the provider/client relationship, moving from power over to power with and ultimately to power through our clients. Now that we are searching for ways to become more ‘client-centered’ as a profession, I feel that transparent, understandable documentation is the key.

It has always been our premise, as occupational therapists, to have our clients engaged in purposeful activity. With the increasing intrusion of third-party payment systems into what we do with our clients and the struggle to become ‘client-centered’ having a method of recording progress becomes increasingly important. Yes, of course, we need to get paid for our work but we also have an obligation to our clients, any one receiving our services.

We all have those people, who question what we do.  I am sure that each and every one of us has had this experience.  Sometimes we can explain what is going on, through statements based on clinical knowledge, but then there are other times that we need real data.  Some challengers will accept the “+” or “-” system of data collection [“+” yes the client was able to perform the task or “-” no the client was not able to perform the task]  while

 

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others want more information.

So rubrics offer us a method of documenting some of our thought processing with regard to critical thinking, clinical reasoning and judgment. Sharing rubrics with clients and caregivers provides them with a tool to engage them in the treatment process in a way that is greater than just sharing goals.  By encouraging clients to monitor their own progress they become more vested, more engaged and more accountable to themselves and to us, their service providers, ultimately leading to greater gains.

Rubrics may be initially time-consuming to learn and to write, just like any other skill, the experienced therapist will soon be developing rubrics a lightening speed and have at their disposal a wealth of data and documentation supporting our services.  In my humble opinion, if a therapist chooses to use or not to use rubrics, it is okay, it’s their decision.  I choose to use rubrics, engage my clients in progress monitoring, and have data specifically highlighting the client’s progress.  In my opinion, how can I expect my clients to make the best progress if I do not share my expectations with them. I feel that I empower my clients through the use of rubrics, because I want to, not because I have to.

 

 

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Revisiting The Student Interview

The Student Interview CoverAI have worked with middle and high school students most often.  At this age, a student’s frustrations increase proportionally to the workload.  They are aware of what works and what does not work for them.  When frustrations run so high and parents begin to panic, it is at this time other professionals, advocate and lawyers, become involved.

The Student Interview was developed because of a number of school-based cases that I had been involved in were quite intense.  Every small detail of the case was explored in depth.  I felt that it was imperative that the student have a voice and that I had a document that asked all the right questions. While it is very sad to see the state of the educational system, as it is right now, I feel that the educational system is in transition.  There are always ups and downs when experiencing a transition.

Over the last few years, I have used this interview with many students.  Since this is a form to complete, it is good experience for a student in the transition process.  There is a variety of questions, relevant to the student’s educational, vocational and self-care needs.  Some questions require a yes or no response, while others are open-ended and call for more detail.  The Student Interview serves its intended purpose quite nicely. Since using The Student Interview, I have not had that “uh oh” moment when something comes up that I should be aware of.  At least nothing that I have not at least asked and have a response to.

I really love a student’s surprise when he or she is asked to complete the satisfaction survey.  This is often the very first time a student is asked for his or her opinion on services.  I, now, provide each student with this interview.  I find it an invaluable tool not only as written documentation but also as a basis for a deeper conversation regarding a student’s skills, and their perceptions of themselves.

 

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy

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Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy

Every practice setting that an occupational therapist, or any other health care provider, works in is demanding accountability and transparency. School-based practice is not immune, gone are the days of a teacher’s or therapist’s opinion. Reports are now required to be a balanced assessment of a student’s abilities, strengths and weakness including both formative and summative data. Occupational therapists need to know how to meet the demands of today’s data driven environment. As a research emergent profession, we are called upon to take data systematically. In an educational environment, occupational therapists should be aligning their data collectionmethods and documentation style with teachers. By aligning our documentation style and data collection methods, a more cohesive picture of the student emerges. This allows for more concise development of the IEP and goals targeted toward the student’s individual needs. Data collection need not be difficult. With a little preparation and smart organization planning, data collection becomes easy. When annual review time comes around, goal progress is also easy to report. This allows better planning for the coming year by the Committee on Special Education. Students also benefit by using rubrics in an occupational therapy setting. Some students cannot see or understand the “hidden curriculum.” These students need the guidelines for achievement that others may not. In using a rubric, you are defining the rules by which you consider a goal achieved. This can potentially improve goal progress and decrease the student’s anxiety about being pulled out or having a therapist in the classroom. For some students, a rubric provides the light at the end of the tunnel. With systematic data collection through the use of rubrics, occupational therapists have a unique opportunity to review and interpret the data collected from his or her students to create pilot or ex post facto studies. This can potentially lead to further research. Rubrics can be a win-win situation.

 

Topics Included in this book:

About the Author

Preface

Introduction

Accountability

Why Should Occupational Therapists Use Rubrics?

Critical Thinking, Clinical Reasoning and Clinical Judgment

Thinking like a Researcher

What is a Rubric?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Rubrics for an Assessment

Tips for Rubric Development

How Do Rubrics Relate to the IEP?

Types of Rubrics

Just a Word on Organization

Occupational Therapy Assessment

A Balance between Standardized and Non-Standardized Assessments

A More Complete Picture

Interview

Clinical Observations

Components of a Rubric

Goal/Objective/Benchmark

Scoring/Rating Scales

Criteria

Descriptors

Comments

Individual Skill Rubric

Analytic Rubric

Holistic Rubric

Chapter Five

Why are Other Staff Members Taking Data on my Goals?

Making Goals Measurable

What does Measurable Mean?

Goal Development Chart

Collecting Relevant Data

Formative Data

Summative Data

Data Collection

Paperless?

Case Studies

Joey

Task:  Shoe Tying

Plan:  Assessment

Questions & Answers

Results & Follow Up

Charlotte

Task:  Keyboarding

Plan: Assessment

Questions & Answers

Results & Follow Up

Bibliography

Index

Table 1:  Types of Rubrics

Table 2:  This is an example of a Individual skill rubric with benchmarks for a cutting with scissors goal

Table 3:  Sample of Staff Log-In Sheet

Table 4:  Methods of Assessment

Table 5:  Descriptive Terms to Rate Student’s Performance

Table 6:  Sample Holistic Rubric

Table 7:  Sample Measurable Goals  for IEP

Table 8:  Goal Development Chart

Table 9:  Types of Data

Table 10:  Interpreting Data Worksheet

Table 11:  Double Loop Shoe Tying Assessment Rubric

Table 12:  Double Loop Shoe Tying Assessment Data Sheet

Table 13:  Adapted Double Loop Shoe Tying Rubric

Table 14:  Adapted Double Loop Shoe Tying Assessment Rubric Data Collection Sheet

Table 15: One Hand Keyboarding Assessment

Table 16:  Graphic Representation of Data Collected

Table 17: Keyboarding Assessment Rubric

Table 18:  Assessment Rubric: Putting on Socks with One Hand

Table 19:  Data Collection: Putting on Socks with One Hand

Table 20:  Assessment Rubric:  Packaging Utensils

Posted in Assistive Technology, Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, New Beginings

Assistive Technology Assessment

Thinking in Terms of Developing Skill Sets Rather Than Compensating for a Disability

There are many types of assistive technology evaluations including:  mobility, seating/positioning, communication, computer access, switch-access, and aids for daily living, work-site modification, home modification, and recreational assessments.  While assistive technology should be considered in the typical ways; it should also be considered in other ways, i.e., development of skill sets.

From the use of smart phones to navigating the community, developing visual picture schedules to support a cooking or grooming task to the use of laptops and desk top computers for literacy programming, assistive technology supports the development of skills or skill sets.  [Assistive] Technology is here to stay.

Students who are unable to develop skills similar to their peers may very well be more capable with the use of technology.  The Cloud, iPads, iPhones and tablets make taking notes and organizing those notes much easier [with training] increasing a student’s ability to be independent.  Using literacy programming may actually provide a student a voice where he or she did not have one before.  Using technology successfully has the potential to help a student develop confidence and self-esteem.

What makes the addition of developing a skill set different from the typical assistive technology evaluation?  First the referral is targeted toward a specific reason for that referral.  All of the same criteria for that typical evaluation are assessed.  The same programming and devices are explored as is the student’s responses.  Each teacher working with this student is provided with a questionnaire and interviewed based on those responses.  This then gives the evaluator a picture of the student and the skills required to meet the demands in each core class.  A clearer picture of the student’s abilities to achieve the desired skill set is then established.

Based on the demands of that particular skill set, the student is observed discreetly in a core class.  For example, if the desired skill set is to take notes, the following skills will be explored and data collected:  responses to sight and sound, orientation to the teacher, motor response to cue words, quality of the notes taken (content, legibility and organization), etc.  Based on the data collected, recommendations are then made to help the student reach the goal of the desired skill set.  This may be almost a full day of assessment for a particular student.

Once recommendations have been made, and the report has been submitted to the district, the real work begins.  It is important for the evaluator to be in contact with the district’s technology team.  Together with the technology team, a device can be prepared to meet the student’s needs in each of his or her classes.  In the case of note taking, it may mean that a device must be in sync with the Smart Board in class so that the student can save the lecture notes.  Different programs, based on teacher preference, may also need to be learned by the student to ensure that the notes are recorded.

So after a full day of evaluation, and further consult with the technology department, it is prudent to set up additional consult sessions to train the student and the staff in the use of the device, develop future goals and assess whether or not this plan of action will be successful for the student.  In order for assistive technology to meet the needs of the student, it must be constantly assessed and re-assessed, with additional support to the student.

In a different scenario, a student may be recommended for an assistive technology evaluation to address poor handwriting skills.  In addition to the typical assistive technology evaluation where the student’s keyboarding ability is assessed, he or she may need additional support in keyboarding using a touch typing method to improve speed and accuracy.  Often a student with poor handwriting skills has been provided with a computer as needed but he or she has not learned the correct method of keyboarding.  This leads to greater frustration and disenchantment, with any device provided, due to a higher error rate.

A traditional assistive technology evaluation may be requested if the student has reading difficulties, for example, Dyslexia.  Options for assistive technology include text to speech programming-having text from a computer read to the student in a computer voice.  Once the student has been approved for assistive technology, depending on the programming chosen by the district, the voice in the test to speech program can be somewhat pleasing or definitely irritating.  It is difficult to train a student to to modify and use this type of programming during the initial evaluation.  Digital book sharing services require that the student have an account.  This account needs to have a completed application, parent consent and a sign-off by a professional to indicate a visual print disability.  It can take a day or two for the company to approve the application.  Upon approval, a Welcome e-mail is sent to access the account.  Often, an additional program needs to be downloaded before the student or parent can download books to read.

There is a significant delay in the student accessing and using this programming.  If the teacher has not had access to digital book sharing prior to this student, he or she also needs to learn how to use the programming.  So in addition to the evaluation and initial training, follow up and ongoing training is necessary.  This training can be done by the evaluator or district personnel knowledgeable in this area.

In general, assistive technology can only be considered successful if the student is using it to function within his school and home environments and is able to perform the activities with an increased level of independence.  This brings attention to another issue that arises with the use of assistive technology, which is caregiver training.  Frequently, in this training loop, the parent [or caregiver] is left out.  It is important to have the parent participate in at least one training session, once the technology, approved by the district, is in place.

It is ny goal to ensure that every student receiving assistive technology, either through the district or through private funding, receive the training that he or she needs to gain independence.  Once again, if the student is not comfortable with the technology or does not fully understand how to use it, the technology is wasted as is the money spent or the evaluation, purchase and training.  We must also be very careful in not allowing the assistive technology provided being considered another failure.  This can further undermine a student’s self-confidence and self-esteem.