Reviews and success stories

21US Madalaine

Madalaine Pugilese/Wendy Buckley

Madalaine Pugliese writes:

As the Director of the Assistive Special Education Technology Program at Simmons College in Boston, it is my job to provide state-of-the-art tools to the specialists, teachers and therapists who attend our courses. Although keeping up with available tools on the market can be a daunting challenge, it is important because the nature of the students that we strive to accommodate in the learning process demands unique and flexible customizing environments. The power of a tool such as Clicker lies in the ease of creating and using activities that are perfectly correlated to standard curriculum but at a functional level appropriate for each learner. Here, Wendy Buckley gives an example of a way Clicker can be used to include any learner in a modified standard curriculum activity:

I work with children who are deafblind. The term deafblind immediately leads one to think total blindness and profound deafness, but in reality only a very small number of deafblind individuals have a total vision and hearing loss. Most of my students have a vision impairment combined with a hearing loss. This can mean low vision with profound hearing impairment or total blindness with mild to moderate hearing loss.  Language acquisition and communication are great challenges because the deafblind individual experiences the world in such a different way from someone with good hearing and vision. 

Clicker, used with the Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbol library has been a very successful program for encouraging written language in my students. On-screen grids utilizing pictures and words based on the child's individual language abilities are created to facilitate sentence formation. Custom symbol libraries that include photographs and other graphic images are created for each child, so he can write sentences with symbol support about an upcoming field trip or special event. The child is encouraged to express himself in writing by selecting words and symbols from the grids. He doesn't struggle with finding individual letters on a keyboard to spell out a word; he quickly creates complete sentences using the custom grids. The finished document is printed and added to a notebook that serves as a journal of the child's experiences for his later review, further discussion or sharing with others.

As his written language develops, the child types words on the keyboard and the use of symbols and grids is faded. Initially, the child uses the on-screen grids as a model for word choices or sentence structure and merely copies the text. Later, the child is challenged to recall spelling words from memory or type them with fingerspelling help from the teacher. The child is motivated to write experience stories, letters to others and lists for shopping or cooking and the teacher encourages his writing development by providing assistance with vocabulary and language.

Wendy Buckley
Perkins School for the Deaf and Blind
Watertown, Massachusetts