Thursday, April 2, 2009

PECS is old school

I was talking with a colleague who is getting her special ed credential, and she was explaining that in her program they were teaching her about PECS. She was so excited about this as a way to communicate. She was excited, and I was...


PECS is so last year! I mean, sure it is a good early intervention, a great way to assess communicative intent and ability, but why are preparation programs and schools STILL focusing on low tech and no tech communication? 

Because these interventions are nearly free. Sure, inadequate, inappropriate. But free.

You think PECS is enough? OK. Act of imagination. Go through a whole day without talking. The only thing you can use to get your ideas across is little cards with pictures. 

After your experiment, go read about dynamic speech generating devices from PRC, My Tobii and Dynavox

Kids who are using PECS are AAC users. IDEA protects a child's right to assistive technology, including AAC. And not just cheap, no tech Assistive Technology. Appropriate assistive technology. 

PECS is a great temporary early assessment and intervention. But it is really old school.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Funding Disabilities

I am in New York on business. Miss my kids. 

And wow, am I tired of writing about Assistive Technology. If I had a magic wand, I would make all that magically better and move on. But, respite is essential, and I am taking respite from the topic. 

I came across a lovely article in a local Brooklyn rag about funding challenges for a local organization serving people with developmental disabilities-- The Guild for Exceptional Children. This after a conversation with a very good friend about AT and the need to develop more developmentally appropriate software that interfaces with the My Tobii eyegaze system... to which he suggested with the sweetest intent: there must be foundations out there that would take that on. 

It seems particularly ironic with this article in the paper today. And parents of children with disabilities know it just ain't so. There is not much money in services for disabilities. Not much of a market for specialized products like the My Tobii or the ECO. More attorneys work for districts blocking children's IEPs than work for children to secure their rights. It is always, all about money. Why should your kid go without so that my kid, who clearly will not amount to anything, should get a really fancy computer that helps her add and read Clifford? THAT is friggin' socialism. BAD.... bad socialism. YAY survival of the fittest.  (Sorry, listening to Sean Hannity today in the cab at about 80 decibels bent me out of shape).

The thing is, it is easy, so easy for the right to say that every one has a right to life, but not so easy to say that everyone has a right to quality of life. Quality ain't cheap. Quality for everyone is socialism.

Here is my final, line in the sand, quid pro quo: I will concede to restrictions on abortion. Really, I will the instant, the very instant, that  medical care, food, shelter and water and care by highly-qualified providers are the legally protected rights of EVERY child who has taken their first breath in our great nation, including every child with a disability. 

Is that so much to ask? Just a little socialism, Sean. For the kids. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers

Finding someone qualified to do an AAC assessment for our non-verbal, severely apraxic child was a huge hurdle, and the thing that slowed her services down most. In the three years of attempting to get an AAC assessment, no one on my child's IEP team or in the Alternative Dispute Resolution group told us that the California Department of Education has special diagnostic centers.

The centers provide technical assistance, support, case planning and ASSESSMENTS. Referrals must come from the district, SELPA or LEA-- but you can ask request that the district make the referral. (In writing, formal request for assessment, etc.)  There are three centers: Fremont, Fresno and LA, so for most people this referral will involve some travel. But might be worth it. I know a child who received a very good AAC assessment from the Fremont center. From the Diagnostic Center website: 

Services include:
  • Comprehensive, state-of-the-art assessment and educational planning services to assist local school districts (LEAs) in addressing the needs of their most complex special education students
  • Technical assistance and consultation in program and instructional design and delivery
  • Professional development opportunities for teachers, administrators, special education staff, families and service agency personnel
Eligible students are those students who:
  • are enrolled in special education,
  • are not progressing despite LEA efforts,
  • present a complex learning or behavioral profile, and
  • for whom the LEA requires additional diagnostic information to assist in defining appropriate educational goals and teaching strategies.
Although it would feel so good to go on a rant about WHY no one in my district volunteered this information or suggested this referral, I am not going to and instead just pass along the lesson learned. Hope it is useful.