Showing posts with label nowhere near holland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nowhere near holland. Show all posts

January 26, 2015

Co-presenter

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Schuyler is growing into an advocate for her own needs and wants, although it's not always easy for her. She gets nervous. She doubts the value of what she has to say sometimes. But at the same time, she sees how much people want to hear her perspective, and she is beginning to get a sense of what her future as an advocate might look like. She's taking the first steps into a life where the person who speaks up for Schuyler is Schuyler.
July 2008. I'd like to have that hair back, please.

January 19, 2015

Impossible Things

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Doctors and teachers and therapists, they can be a great many things, but they're generally not very skilled prognosticators. To be fair, I don't think very many of them actually claim to be able to tell the future, and I imagine most of them don't even want to try. As parents of kids with disabilities, we ask them to. We demand that they try. Our world and that of our children is already far too full of uncertainty. As a result, we ask for information that our kids' caretakers and educators can't possibly possess. So I recognize that we really do sort of have it coming.  
But God help me, I do so love it when they're wrong.

January 12, 2015

No Easy Answers

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
It's that time of year again, the beginning of the spring semester, when all the least fun parts of Schuyler's public school experience begin to rise up out of the swamp and demand attention. Soon we'll start worrying about the STAAR test, Texas's state-mandated standardized testing. It's the Godzilla monster that stomps through our little Tokyo ever year. We also begin preparations for Schuyler's next IEP meeting, and the future that it portends. (SPOILER: More monsters, pretty much forever.)


January 6, 2015

A World of Fairness

This week at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
I'd like to suggest a new attitude as we begin a new year. There's a lot of concern out there about fairness and balance and making sure no one gets anything they're not entitled to. I think we've got that covered. Perhaps it's time for a little imbalance. Maybe, just maybe, the world won't spin off its axis if we worry just a little more about those families for whom the idea of fairness has always been something of a cruel joke. Not charity, but just a little empathy. Perhaps a pinch more humanity than we've been accustomed to tossing into the mix.

December 29, 2014

Theories of Everything

This week at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
The film by and large gives a respectful and accurate look at how technology can make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Speech tech gave Stephen Hawking the ability to communicate his powerful vision of time and space and the origins of our universe, and in doing so made the world a far richer and better place. Not just for one man or his family, but for the entirety of human civilization. That's not too bad.
Happy New Year to everyone who takes the time to read my stuff. Here's to the future!

December 22, 2014

Christmas 2015

This week, at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Nobody I know loves Christmas as much as Schuyler. This might seem surprising, given her own oft-expressed atheism. (Believers who are worried about her soul's peril might be slightly relieved to hear that she recently expressed some wiggle room on the question of the existence of God.) But Schuyler loves the music of the season, and the gift-giving (and the gift-getting, because she's no fool), and the general positivity of the season. Schuyler Noelle, who has as much reason to believe otherwise as anyone, has a seemingly bottomless faith in the goodness of people. She's better at being a human than just about anyone I know.

December 17, 2014

Some Thoughts on a Very Very Very Bad Idea

This week at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
When news stories come out detailing the mistreatment of special needs kids, I tend to think that the best thing we can do is shine a light on them, to try to force change through awareness. I'm not always sure that actually works, though; when you turn on the lights, the roaches scatter and run under the fridge, but they don't actually go away. Maybe I'm just helping give the roaches a little exercise.

December 8, 2014

A Scene, and a Revelation

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Schuyler's percussion teacher doesn't sign, but rather reads lips. That's not much help with Schuyler, whose lips aren't doing a lot of heavy lifting when she speaks. And so a big part of what Schuyler is likely to get from her private percussion lessons has little to do with drumming and everything to do with communication and information exchange.

December 1, 2014

Then and Now

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
When I think back to my high school years, there's a significant difference between then and now. It's a difference that matters, and one that I suspect most people my age might appreciate. When I was in high school, I knew a few people with physical disabilities, but absolutely none with developmental disabilities like Schuyler's. To this day, I have no idea where they were even educated. I'm not going to suggest they were hidden away in some evil dungeon somewhere, eating bugs in the dark or whatever. For all I know, they were receiving a fine education, but they were elsewhere. And my own development as a human being suffered as a result.

November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
I worry for Schuyler around my birthday more then usual, especially with the grey skies and desaturated colors of fall settling in for the coming months. It's just as well that Thanksgiving arrives at the same time. A day for examining the things for which I should give thanks, followed by a season of celebrating the better impulses of humanity, these might be parachutes in an otherwise rapid loss of emotional altitude. Perhaps I should simply be thankful for Thanksgiving and it's slightly contrived but much needed sense of "Quit your bitching and think of stuff to be thankful for!"

November 17, 2014

Boundaries, Drawn with a Dull Pencil

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Failure is how Schuyler learns. She is a remarkably stubborn kid; she fixates on problems, particularly those she perceives as injustices, and doesn't let go of them easily. (According to Julie, this is a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.) It can be frustrating as a parent, and hard to step back when she clearly does need help, but steadfastly does not want it. Schuyler wants to make her way in the world, even as she struggles to understand it now perhaps more than ever before. That world has become so much bigger, and her part in navigating it so much more complex.

November 10, 2014

Astronaut

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
We spend years preparing our astronaut for her grand mission. Years. Then one day, in the not terribly distant future, we will count down and launch her into the unknown. We'll watch that flame rise into the sky, and eventually its brightness will fade and the rumble of the engines will be too distant to hear, and we'll sit in our mission control, in silence. 
When Schuyler takes flight and soars into the void, she will be alone.

November 4, 2014

The World I Want

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Given my heart's desire from a magic genie, I might not wish for Schuyler to be made typical enough to make it in the world. It is entirely possible that I would instead choose a world that had places for Schuyler, a world that found value in her weirdness and the patience to wait to hear what she has to say. If I were wise, perhaps I would recognize that given a choice between these two unattainable wishes, the second might just make for a much more interesting planet.

November 3, 2014

Making Our Own Ice

I want to discuss something very specific to augmentative alternative communication, so my apologies in advance if this isn't part of your world. I specifically want to address the strange, illogical divide in the professional speech technology world between those who use dedicated speech devices and those who find success with consumer electronics products like Apple's iPad. I'm still surprised to watch these conversations unfold online and see how blithely parent advocates and end users are often condescended to. Frankly, it pisses me off, which is why I'm subjecting you to this post.

Some of the discord comes from representatives of the big speech device makers, companies who are responsible for developing the technologies that AAC users have come to depend on but who have been struggling to sustain their business models now that commercial tablets have democratized the AAC process. It's a huge shift, and one that the industry is still trying to figure out. For a specific subset of ambulatory users, suddenly the potential purchase price for a speech language system has dropped from something in the area of eight thousand dollars (plus service agreements that can run around a thousand dollars a year) to under a grand, depending on the communications app and however many whistles and bells you choose for your tablet. So potentially MUCH under a grand.

This change has meant that where once insurance companies and school administrators held final say in the systems purchased, for some that power has now shifted. Parents and end users themselves are suddenly able to make decisions about the technology that allows them to communicate. This democratization comes with pitfalls. It is up to these parents and users to get good information about the language software that is available, and to find resources to determine what AAC needs they or their kids may have. They don't always have the support personnel in place to assist them in making good decisions. There are a lot of very, very bad AAC apps out there, and clearly someone is buying them.

The problem with the dialogue that is taking place in sectors of the AAC community is that it makes some dubious assumptions. Cheaper is inferior. Using commercial tablets amounts to a "one size fits all" approach. More expensive systems mean more solid support. You get what you pay for. And teachers, parents and end users are simply not qualified to make those choices.

Getting good support for systems running on consumer electronics is a real concern. But honestly, it's no different from the situation faced by many schools and families out there with dedicated devices without any meaningful local support. It's an industry-wide problem, and honestly one that can be exacerbated for users of expensive dedicated devices by the prohibitive cost of maintaining service agreements from year to year, as well as issues like loaner devices for repair downtime.

iPads and other consumer tablets aren't a fit for every user or even most users, and I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone make the case that they are. But for users like Schuyler and thousands more like her, these tablets provide possibilities that go beyond a speech prosthesis. To say that we are in one "camp" or another, and that AAC users are divided between dedicated devices and consumer electronics, is a gross oversimplification, and it's not accurate. Schuyler uses an iPad, and it runs the same language software that she used on her dedicated device, back when it was the appropriate choice for her. She not in a camp; she's a hybrid, and I suspect she's the rule, not the exception.



In a piece she wrote for BridgingApps a few months ago, Schuyler had this to say about using her iPad:
I like to use my iPad Mini because it help me with talking and I can looks things up like the the right stuff for school. It makes me as other people. When I used my old speech device, it looks like something wrong with me.

[...]

It looks I’m like other people.
One day, I am hopeful that Schuyler will make peace with her differences and even celebrate them. It's something that we encourage in her self-identification and always have. But she's an ambulatory fourteen year-old girl with an invisible disability, attending a public school where she desperately wants to fit in. She's not interested in neurodiversity, because she's in a world where difference is problematic. That's not ideal, but it's her Now World. For Schuyler, the iPad provides a way to fit in a little better, and to participate in a world of technology and online social presence. And she does so using the same language system that she learned on her dedicated speech device.

Her situation mirrors a great many AAC users her age. And for Schuyler and her fellow invisibly disabled peers, the iPad has transformed weird looks into curious questions. She has gone from an effective medical prosthesis that almost miraculously gave her language she never had before but also sometimes stigmatized her to a new powerful tool that also functions as a part of a social narrative in which everyday tech is inclusive.

Inclusive. That's important.

No one is suggesting that this technology will work for everyone. But for speech professionals to suggest that consumer tablet technology like the iPad is somehow universally cheap and inferior isn't just incorrect, although let's be very clear on this point. It is WILDLY incorrect. For many users like Schuyler, systems like the iPad have presented a far superior solution. So no, belittling that technology isn't just untrue. It's demeaning. It often represents an attitude that looks backwards, like a turn-of-the-century ice merchant haughtily dismissing newfangled electric ice makers. It attempts to shame users and parents into abandoning their hard-earned new autonomy. "You'll never be capable of supporting and advocating for yourself," the argument suggests. "You need to step back and let the grownups make those choices."

End users and parents and therapists and teachers, they are becoming experts, out of necessity and because they represent the ground troops. They're making their own ice, not just more cheaply but with greater flexibility and efficiency. Professional support entities now need to make some difficult choices about what the future of their industry looks like, and how to create the business models that keep them employed and relevant, and that keep their clients taken care of. These speech professionals are the natural leaders we look to.

But if there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's how to take the reins in hand when necessary. We're mostly okay with that outcome, too.


October 27, 2014

A Season of Making Sense

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
We like Halloween around here. Part of Schuyler's fondness for the holiday probably stems, as it does for many kids with disabilities both obvious and invisible, from the opportunity to pass, if only superficially and for a short time, as no different from other kids. On most days, Schuyler is hyperaware of her difference, but on Halloween, the world is full of monsters and oddities and weirdos. Whatever she may think of herself on most days, this is the week where she's just one of the creepy crowd.

October 21, 2014

Deflated

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Today, I’m tired of the walking. I’m tired of screwing up, and I’m tired of other people treating Schuyler like a cute little pet who might pee on the carpet, rather than a complicated and nuanced human being. My weapon is a rubber sword today, and it feels especially ineffective. I’m just going to sit for a while and see what happens. I wish I had something in my tank, and I’m sure I will tomorrow. But not today. Sorry.

October 13, 2014

The Path to Self-Advocacy

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
Schuyler is never going to be a confrontational self-advocate, I feel pretty certain of that. She shies away from conflict, even as she holds the grudges that she develops as a result of it. Her own sense of justice doesn't always trump her desire to navigate her life with ease. She loves participating in marching band, for instance, even as she feels slighted by how she's treated (and more to the point, sometimes dismissed) by her band teachers from time to time. She's not interested in taking a stand, so she endures what she perceives as slights and focuses on the fun she's having. Sometimes she's a little student of Zen, in a way that I wish I could be but never am.

October 10, 2014

Teaching Students to Self-Advocate

Amanda Morin and Robert Rummel-Hudson join The Inclusive Class Podcast this week! Amanda Morin is an advocate and author of The Everything Parent's Guide to Special Education. Robert Rummel-Hudson is author of Schuyler's Monster. Together, with Nicole and Terri, the conversation will be about teaching our student's to self-advocate - the pros, the cons, the pitfalls.


Check Out Family Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The Inclusive Class Podcast on BlogTalkRadio

October 6, 2014

An Extraordinary Story

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
In the list of commemorative awareness months, October's got a lot going on. It's Down Syndrome Awareness Month, after all, as well as National Dyslexia Awareness Month, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National ADHD Awareness Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Spina Bifida Awareness Month, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. October kind of feels like Awareness Awareness Month, to be honest. Relevant to my own life and my own personal perspective, along with all those worthy causes, October is also AAC Awareness Month.

September 29, 2014

Two Simple Experiences

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
Now that Schuyler is up to her eyeballs in high school life, marching band has become something of a sink-or-swim experience for her. This has resulted in a few stumbles, such as when she took the field at last week's football game with big floppy shoes that were not just untied but actually unlaced because she couldn't do it and, for whatever reason, she couldn't find anyone to help her while the band was getting into their uniforms. The new independent model of Schuyler 2.0 has some bugs to work out of the system, but she's getting there.