What Can Professionals Do to Support Parents in Teaching Their Child Assistive Technology Skills?

Cecilia Robinson Listen to Cecilia Robinson's advice about what professionals can do to support parents in teaching their child assistive technology skills.


I'm Cecilia Robinson, and I work at Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas. My job is to provide professional development in assistive technology and visual impairments for our teachers and also our assistive technology specialists in the district.

What do you believe professionals should do to help parents teach and reinforce the expanded core skill of assistive technology?

What professionals can do to help teach the parents to learn about the expanded core curriculum and in the assistive technology area, number one is work with the parents to help them understand what the child is supposed to do with the assistive technology. Many parents would choose to help the child at home, and that's great. However, teachers need to remember that parents are not supposed to be teaching the child to use the technology. They are there to help support the technology. So communicate with the parents to let them know that you will need them to help monitor the use of technology at home, and they can be the ones who help to give you information on how the child is using the technology at home.

For example, some children take a laptop computer at home with JAWS for Windows. They might look online to find information on the Internet so they can do their homework. However, just like with their sighted children, parents need to be monitoring what the child with the visual impairment is using the technology at home (for).

Number one thing is we do not want the children to go to inappropriate sites because there are many sites out there with inappropriate information that your child should never go to, and even though your child is using a computer program that speaks, you can always see what is going on. So let the parents know how they can help to monitor the use of technology at home.

And then, parents should understand their role in helping the assistive technology being used appropriately, and this is what we call the partnership. Parents should be equal contributors to information as to how the child is using assistive technology at home. The key piece is to communicate. Tell the parents to get ahold of you and let you know what's going on. And the teacher should do the same with the parents as well. Just send home a little note or e-mail your parents and let them know how their child is using technology in school and what you want them to help you to monitor at home.

And then, the other critical point that I want to bring up is letting the parents know how the child is using assistive technology at home. The progress, the lack of progress, and when the equipment breaks down. For the same areas, parents can tell you the same thing too. Like if the technology breaks down at home, then you know that when the technology comes back to school, there is a good system to help solve that problem.

Here's an example. If the student is using a communication aid, then you might want to educate the parent to take the communication aid to the community because it is as much a training for the parents, the school, as much as it is for the community as well. Even though the community is getting to know users of technology and then also getting more used to seeing people with impairments in the general public, they are not very comfortable when there is a piece of equipment involved.

So, if there is a chance for your child to use a communication aid or other assistive technology like a wheelchair in the public, by all means, please do that. And then for a child with low vision, usually they'll have some kind of a monocular or binocular that they can use in the community as well. Most of the students would love to go to restaurants and look at the menu items and order food for themselves, so let the child use the assistive technology and do things for themselves in the community. I think you will see a lot of better results because the child can be independent, and then also the public will be less afraid of seeing people with assistive technology.

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