Sorry for the late post...I was only released from the hospital late Tuesday evening, and I am really wiped out.
I was excited to explore the websites again this week. We have, of course, several disabled students in our school of over 1800 ranging from the very mildly handicapped to one student who visually appears to be a toddler, but who is in fact, high school age. He is wheeled around each day in a modified stroller/high-chair vehicle. He is rarely awake and usually crying when alert. We are all very aware of how lucky we are when we witness disability to this extreme.
First, I checked out the universal design section. I watched several of the videos including the one with Ms. Chappel and several on Down's Syndrome, noted as the most common disability. The SD sights were particularly moving since I was told the my last child may be affected with this genetic disorder. Luckily, he was not and is a very bright, happy senior looking at colleges today. I was surprised to learn of all the assistive technology now available, such as the visual headset. In fact, I was fascinated to learn that people with disabilities are now our country's largest minority group.
Next, I viewed the famous people with disabilities. I had actually used some of this information previously when teaching the short story "Harrison Bergeron." I had listed the disability and asked the students to guess which "celebrity" suffered from it. They, and I, were fascinated to learn that so many recognizable individuals suffer from disabilities. In our site this week, I found names I could add to my list, like Dan Akroid, a favorite of my son's from Ghostbusters who suffers from dyslexia, not to mention Billy Joel, a personal favorite of mine who suffers from mood disorder.
Next, I viewed the National Federation for the Blind website, and I was astonished with the available aides/technologies. Speech synethesizers, like TRiple Talk, Screenless laptops, like Lap Talk.
How would I approach Braille if I had a blind student??? Well, I hope that I would be informed of this student before I walked into the classroom so that I could prepare; however, in the real world this doesn't often happen, and with all the demands on teaching, frankly I don't know how I would handle it. If I was given time to prepare, like learning about the student before the summer break, I would spend a great deal of time learning Braille and other accommodations before I got to the classroom. How would I engage sighted students to learn Braille? I don't think this would be difficult. I think that most students are willing and anxious to learn about others if the task is presented in a respectful, positive manner. In fact, I have seen a class who was willing to cut their hair in support of a classmate suffering from cancer.
I also looked into aides that help blind students learn technology through the use of Braille note takers, Math with various hardware and software like Braille books tactile materials, and accessible calculators not to mention aides for teaching engineering by specialty like Quest Challenges through NASA, accessible calendars for the blind.
Subsequently, I looked at Job Accommodation Network (JAN) which seeks to improve the life of disabled and their employers. They help the disabled find work and make them aware of their resources and rights while helping employers to find and hire the disabled and benefit by lessening the company's insurance and worker's compensation costs.
Lastly, I visited the national Center for Learning Disabilities specifically the teacher's link. I was not surprised at the general information, most of which is available in our school's Special Education department. I team teach with a new Spec. Ed. teacher each year. I was surprised at their program for teaching expressive writing through the use of mnemonics, think sheets, etc. I would like to try some of these innovations in our class and plan to discuss this with my team-teacher.
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