Wednesday, January 25, 2017

AT Lab helps schools and families save money, find solutions

photo of Cameron and student
AT Lab coordinator Cameron Cressall
introduces a cane to a student at the
Con Amore school in Myton, Utah.
ROOSEVELT, UT—People with AT needs can go online and find solutions. But sometimes those solutions either don’t work, or need some modification to be effective. Families can end up trying multiple products before finding one that suits them. And sometimes, the cost of all that trial and error is simply out of reach.

That’s where Utah’s assistive technology labs work to bridge the gap. Two of them are operating in the state of Utah, as part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program within the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

“Financially I can't think of anything better for families,” said Shelley Winn, a special education teacher who has worked with the AT Lab in Roosevelt to find solutions for her students. “They spend so much already on their children's needs.” Winn is a teacher at the Con Amore school in Myton, which serves students with severe, multiple disabilities and developmental delays in Duchene County.

The school has also enjoyed some savings benefits through the AT Lab. When Winn used some demonstration items to find out what would work and what would not, it was a win for the school’s budget.

Teachers at Con Amore also introduced a cane to a student who suddenly stopped walking. Using a loaned device from the AT Lab allowed them to see if the new assistive technology would work without putting the family through the expense of buying one first.

Rachel Boyce, a special educator at Roosevelt Jr. High, worked with the AT Lab to bring a balance beam and balance board to her classroom. “We have a lot of problems with coordination and gross motor skills,” she said. She talked her concerns over with Royce Porter, an occupational therapist in the area, and he linked her up with Cameron Cressall, coordinator of Roosevelt AT Lab.

photo of feet on a beam
A student uses the balance beam.
Boyce knew what she wanted, but the price was too high for her supply budget. So she worked with Cressall to have a low-cost version built out of wood for her classroom.  The resulting balance beam was low-to-the-ground for safety. It came in four pieces, so the students could change up how they were arranged and add some variety while they practiced their skills. “It’s a game for them, and it’s so fun,” she said. “They’re obsessed with it. … I expect it to last for years.”

The students also received a rocking platform from the AT Lab that helps them practice their balance skills.

But the special education students in Boyce’s room have taken AT a step further by learning how to create their own. They’ve built book easels out of PVC pipe and created wedges designed to serve as a portable desk. Boyce’s students took a lot of pride in that project—and they still use them as a portable desk and object holder.

Cressall pre-cut the cardboard used in the wedges, and he did some pre-taping, but the children assembled the rest themselves.

Rachel holds a slant board
Special education teacher Rachel Boyce shows of an AT project her special education class completed.

“It’s good for them to be able to accomplish things,” Boyce said. “The kids have never been allowed to use that kind of equipment, and it was fun to see.”

Royce Porter, the occupational therapist who connected Boyce with Cressall, said he’s happy that the Assistive Technology lab has provided people in the Uintah Basin with more options. He loves being able to refer clients to the AT lab. “It’s like a light to the Basin,” he said. 

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