( This article was written by J. Mark Bade as a Featured Topic in the newletter Assistive Technology for the 2 e Learner ) in the Jan/Feb, 2012 issue)
Are you looking for a way to help that gifted child you raise or teach who has an executive function disorder? How about the one with a reading problem? Or the one with an expressive language disorder?
Joan L. Green, of the Washington, DC, area, is the go-to person for many parents, therapists, and schools who need to figure out what’s in that lengthy evaluation they’ve received about a gifted child who just isn’t achieving in one or more areas. Without the right intervention, that child could wind up in a downward spiral that affects both academic abilities and self-esteem.
Green’s specialty is the application of assistive technology (A.T.) to speech, language, literacy, and cognitive difficulties that may interfere with learning and personal growth. She is a speech and language pathologist with a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s School of Speech, who began her career in the late 1980s working with adults who had had strokes or head injuries. As computer technology improved, tools became available that empowered patients to work on their own, with immediate feedback from the program. For example, Green successfully used a program meant to teach English as a second language to help her clients who suffered from aphasia, which involves problems understanding or expressing language.
With the advent of the Internet and the spread of computers into just about every household, such assistive technology became much more sophisticated, available, and affordable. Today, says Green, she has explored about 1600 applications to find the “treasures” that might help her clients — and that’s just for Apple’s iPad, which she thinks is a great tool.
A.T. and 2e Kids
The twice-exceptional children Green sees are gifted, of course, and tend to have good technical skills. That’s an advantage, because they pick up on things fast, says Green, helping avoid that downward spiral.
Most of the interventions Green offers are short-term, but she is also available for the long haul if that’s what’s needed. She fits the scope of her services to the need and to the family’s budget, and makes an effort to emphasize free or economical A.T. choices. Her goal is to empower parents, students, therapists, and other education professionals with the knowledge of cutting-edge affordable technologies. She helps people find the right tools and strategies for implementing a recommended intervention, all while making life as easy as possible for everyone involved.
Successful implementation, she says, is critical. “You can’t just give someone a product or a list of potential technology tools and expect them to be able to use them without help knowing which is best and how and when to use the technology.”
When the parents of a 2e child come to Green, she will usually receive evaluation reports containing recommendations for using assistive technology. Green’ advantage, she says, is that there are not that many people who can implement those recommendations. Her success stems from the way she can combine her knowledge of:
- Communication disorders
- Psychology (for example, motivation)
- The educational process
- The use of assistive technology hardware and software to address communication disorders.
Finding “The App for That”
A typical case may start with a half-hour phone conversation between Green and the parents. The parents then make available the reports and documentation Green needs to fully understand other professionals’ appraisals of the child’s situation.
Next may come a two-hour in-person or online brainstorming session with the parents about potential ways to address the child’s needs; the parents, after all, have good insight into the child’s interests, routines, and motivation. Green may show and suggest potential assistive technology tools at this point.
Joan Green’s favorite A.T. tools include the following:
- Apple’s iPad with its bounty of apps
- Notability, a note-taking app for the iPad. It includes audio recording, word processing, handwriting, and PDF annotation.
- The Livescribe smartpen, which records audio at the same time it’s being used to take notes on special paper. The notes and audio are synchronized. Tapping the pen on the notes takes you to that part of the audio recording.
- Google Apps, an in-the-cloud collection of “email and collaboration tools” that includes word processing and other common “office” tools. Green especially likes the sharable calendar features, handy for students with executive function issues.
- WordQ+SpeakQ, a writing solution integrating word prediction, text to speech, and voice recognition.
Then, in individual in-person sessions with the student, Green will help the student learn the tools needed to implement the intervention strategies. This session may take place in Joan’s office in Potomac, Maryland, or in the student’s own home or school in the greater Washington, DC area. For example, she might choose a drill-and-practice tool combined with a word retrieval tool to improve skills in spelling. Another strategy might involve a word prediction tool or text-to-speech to help improve a student’s expressive skills. The areas in which Green uses technology to improve student behavior include:
- Following directions
- Learning grammar and punctuation
- Speaking more clearly
- Enhancing spelling and vocabulary
- Practicing writing
- Studying for tests
- Researching on the Internet
- Improving organization, sequencing, and reasoning.
Green’s use of A.T. is not limited to interventions to accommodate a specific learning challenge. She may also implement interventions that focus on augmenting a student’s learning in a particular topic by enhancing the student’s interest and motivation. Not only does technology make the intervention fun, says Green, the right technology can also get around the I-don’t-want-to-be-different problem. Carrying around an iPad rather than a laptop for in-class accommodations, for example, is “cool.” Such interventions may play to a student’s strengths, helping to keep the student engaged in school and enhancing self-esteem.
A.T. for Teachers
Sometimes Green goes into the student’s classroom to observe and may have one-on-one sessions with the student’s teacher to explain the intervention and the tools used. Or, she may present to a group of teachers at school.
Green says that most parents now realize how assistive technology can help their children and expect schools to use that technology. Teachers, however, obviously face lots of demands on their time and may have trouble keeping up with the explosion in A.T. solutions. That’s where Green can help the school, perhaps by assessing the school’s technological capabilities, determining gaps in those capabilities, and suggesting alternative ways to achieve goals, like differentiated instruction, in the classroom. By projecting her iPad screen, Green can demonstrate for the staff how to use technology tools and how to find useful resources on the Internet.
And A.T. for Professionals
Green also presents to other professionals on the topic, which she views as one way to keep up with technology — by making sure her presentation is up to date every time.
Green has written a book on assistive technology which is reviewed elsewhere in this newsletter. She also offers a free e-newsletter on the topic, featuring applications and programs with good value. Interested readers may sign up for it at www.innovativespeech.com.
Joan L. Green may be reached through her website, by e-mail at Joan@innovativespeech.com, or by phone at 301.602.2899. She Tweets under @jgreenslp.