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

Imagine the Life of a Student with an Executive Function Disorder…..

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If you click on the photo above, you can read the infographic on a student, named Josh, who happens to have an executive function disorder.  This is all too common for many parents and teachers–the student unintentionally comes to school without ……. Homework is one of those things that is typically forgotten. Imagine how the student feels when the teacher asks for the homework and it’s not there.  There has to be a solution and there is.  There are a number of ways that the forgotten homework problem can be resolved through technology.

A great way to resolve this problem is by using Microsoft OneNote.  Microsoft OneNote comes with all Microsoft Office Suites–from the least expensive to the most expensive suite.  If you have purchased Microsoft Office then you have OneNote.  Most school districts use Microsoft Office so that they already have it as well.  A student’s homework notebook can be stored in a number of ways:  1.  The school district may allow access to the district server with a student log in from home.  2.  The district can allow access to a Windows Live account from a school computer or iPad.  The OneNote iPad app is free!

So now, the student, through whatever means, is able to access his or her homework assignment in their OneNote notebook.  As soon as the student enters any response to the assignment, it is instantaneously updated on any device that the student or teacher has access to.  So that means when the teacher says, “Josh do you have your homework?” Josh can say yes I do!  If it is not the paper version [easily printed from OneNote], at least Josh would be able to retrieve his assignment from OneNote.  This problem is then eliminated thus helping Josh feel more secure in his abilities.

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Remember that this is only a very basic rubric and will need to be modified to meet the individual needs of each student

It is very helpful to use rubrics to help a student see progress.  This rubric can be saved as a template within OneNote and be completed immediately after the homework is complete.  An additional rubric can be used to demonstrate Josh’s progress in locating his homework at school. In my opinion, we have to stop sweating the small stuff and find ways to help students with Executive Function Disorder be more successful in school.  If we can eliminate minor problems by using technology then that’s what we need to do.

Posted in New Beginings

One of My Favorite Topics: Organization for Clients with ADD

The easiest way to organize anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is to preplan!  Label each drawer with the item of clothing that should be in there.  For example, one drawer for pants, one drawer for shirts.  For any item to be put away, it must have a place to go that is easily accessible and easy to put a way.  A great way to organize underwear and socks is to use clear under bed storage boxes [no lids].  You can have one box for underpants, one for t-shirts or bras, one for white socks and one for dark socks.  Buy about 10-12 pairs of white socks and 10-12 pairs of dark socks [all the same].  Socks will never have to be rolled but will make it in to the right box.  In addition, they will be easier to retrieve in the morning when getting ready for the day.

Forget the coat closets; use a coat rack right by the door with an open basket next to it for keys and gloves.  Place a boot tray by the door, as well, for those bad weather days.  It is often too hard for the person with ADD to open a door, get a hanger, place the coat on a hanger, replace the hanger with the coat in the closet and then handle the keys, gloves, boots, etc.

Bathroom supplies should be equally as easy to retrieve and put away.  A hook for a towel replaces the cumbersome towel rack.  A clear plastic bin should be used for toiletries.  Most of all, an open shelf to put that plastic bin on will ensure that the items go back where they belong.

The worst thing that anyone can do to someone with ADD is over buy or provide him or her with too many items.  If you have the storage space, then go ahead and take advantage of a great sale, otherwise pass and buy only what is needed.

This may not be the prettiest home on the block but it will be an organized one.  Think first before you buy anything.  If you are not replacing a discarded item, don’t buy it.  If you cannot assign a specific place to put that item away, move on.  Your loved one, suffering from ADD, probably does not do well with clutter.  Don’t make it more difficult by creating it.  Remember that OT is “skills for the job of living!”  Organizing your home makes living in it better.