Posts Tagged ‘CM3’

Independent learning through technology

Aran is ten. He was a normally developing child until the age of six when he had a major medical event which required life saving surgery, but which left him brain damaged. He spent a year in hospital then a year in a rehabilitation centre before going back into a mainstream school at the age of eight.

His life has changed considerably. Previously he was meeting age related expectations, and no concerns were expressed about his learning needs or language development. He is now in a powered wheelchair, with his  only assured movement in his left arm. His speech and language are also seriously affected. It is as if, at his young age, he has had a stroke.

When he first went back to school his communication was single words, and consideration was given to providing an augmentative and alternative communication aid (AAC) such as an iPad loaded with Prologquo2go. This is a simple, on-screen, grid from which the user selects the word or phrase they want to say. Frequently the grid will have symbols in the cells as many users will have literacy difficulties, and this can speed up word finding. Unfortunately he did not have sufficient muscle tone in his arm to be able to lift it far enough to touch all of the screen, nor the ability to isolate a single finger to tap or to swipe. This also meant that using an iPad was out for curriculum work.

We decided to find another way of working, whilst at the same time using the iPad for games and activities that might help build his capacity to use it more effectively in the  future.

We began to introduce a laptop with a switch attached. This is a large button that is pressed to create a response on the screen. At first we tried simple activities where a picture is built with each click of the button, which then became animated after five clicks as a reward. Aran picked this  up very quickly and was soon using  ChoooseIt Maker Readymades for curriculum activities. These are a number of sequential screens, each with a set of cells  – between two and eight – laid out like a grid, containing possible answers to a question (which can be written, read aloud, or both). Each cell is highlighted in turn and when it gets to the answer the user presses the button.

Fairly quickly we were able to add a second switch meaning that  instead of automatic scanning one button moved the highlight on the screen whilst the other was used to select the chosen answer. This set up meant that Aran was able to work independently for the first time since he had returned to a classroom, to the extent that his teaching assistant could leave him to work whilst she nipped to the loo, grabbed a cup of tea, or worked with one of the other  children in the class.

We also invested in ChooseIt Maker3 so that we could create more challenging material for him to use in class.

It is difficult to know how much he is remembering from what he learnt previously, before he became ill, or whether he is learning afresh. Similarly with his language development, some of it may be recovered, some learnt. However, his speed of recovery, whilst slow, is continuing – and gaining – apace.

He is now using two switches with the on-screen keyboard and predictor in Clicker7 to write short pieces of work, as well as using three switches to control his wheelchair. His language is such that he is using sentences of several words, although AAC is sometimes used to help him express his feelings when in counselling sessions (provided to help him make sense of the situation he now finds himself in).

Whilst it is impossible to know where his developmental path will take him, it is clear that without technology he could not operate with any independence in school. It allows him to get himself around, to work and to write, as well as contributing to his growing capacity to communicate.