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Thanks to technology, students have a voice

Thanks to technology, students have a voice

Students using speech-assisting technology to communicate with their peers“I like applesauce and chocolate pudding,” said Colette, a student at Truesdell Middle School with the help of her device after being asked about her favorite snack. With the assistance of technology, she has the ability to say what’s on her mind.

Colette, and many other students with difficulties with speech, are using speech-generating tablets to communicate with others.

“I love to see how life-changing it is for our students,” said Jennifer Owen, Speech-Language Pathologist. “It gives them a voice and universal form of communication. It provides them an opportunity to engage in their classes and with their peers. They are able to have conversations and they are able to play.”

This school year, Owen helped facilitate the purchase of 15 new devices for students, along with providing support and training for students and their parents on how to use the devices. The software on the tablets have hundreds of pictures for items, actions and phrases set up in categories. Students are able to select the words they want to use to put them in sentences. When the sentence is complete, they select a button that plays it for others to hear. More word and phrase options can be added to the software as the student’s vocabulary develops.

To see if a student is eligible for a device, students go through an evaluation process and try out different types to see if the speech-generating tablet is the best fit for their needs. There is a lot of training and adjusting to ensure the device is perfect for their needs.

Many tablets use touch screens for students to select the words they want to use. Colette’s device has eye gaze access. She can look at a photo on the tablet for a few seconds and it selects that word or phrase.

“She understands what’s being said, she just doesn’t have the ability to verbally respond. With this device she has been able to express herself,” said Holly Taylor, Speech-Language Pathologist at Truesdell. “The importance of this is tremendous and we get to see her fun personality come through.”  

Rayden, a student at Enders STEM and Leadership Magnet, was presented with his new tablet earlier this year. Within minutes of receiving the device, he shared that he wanted to play a game on his iPad.

“Before the technology we used a flip book with pictures,” said Marah McKissick, Speech-Language Pathologist at Enders. “For some of our students, that’s all they need, but for others, a flip book is so limiting. If I had to make a book for every word they may want to say, it would be huge and they can’t carry that around.”

 “With a flip book, Rayden could share that he wants pizza, but the books don’t have toppings,” she added. “With the technology, I now know he wants pizza with pepperoni and sausage. That is a huge improvement.”