Institute and Elwyn Partner Use Stimulus Funding to Increase Inclusion of Young Children with Disabilities
The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University in partnership with Elwyn Early Childhood Services has embarked on a project to purchase and make available $25,000 of equipment to help young children with disabilities in Philadelphia to communicate, learn and play.
The project began in 2009 when the Pennsylvania Department of Education received stimulus funding to develop a statewide initiative to increase inclusion of young children with disabilities through the use of assistive technology (AT). As the organization responsible for preschool special education services in Philadelphia, Elwyn received the funds to implement the project through its "Special Education for Early Developmental Success (SEEDS)" program.
Elwyn reached out to the Pennsylvania's Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT), the Commonwealth's "Assistive Technology Act" program and a program of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, because of its expertise in operating an AT device lending program. In addition, the Institute's AT staff has been providing technical assistance to early intervention teams serving Philadelphia infants and toddlers with disabilities for many years. Institute Associate Director, Amy Goldman noted the importance of early intervention. "Assistive technology includes the tools that opens doors for young children with disabilities."
This early intervention project has two phases. Last year, the PIAT designed and conducted "Helping Tools for Young Children with Disabilities and Their Families" train-the-trainer program for professionals working in early intervention, to develop their capacity to train others on the potential of AT for young children with disabilities. The "Helping Tools" program introduced devices and adaptations which have proven helpful to young children birth to age 5, and the "kits" compiled for that training—now available for loan—contained examples of low-tech to mid-tech devices, information, resources, and training materials.
In the second phase, PIAT researched and purchased items appropriate for young children to help them learn and play with their non-disabled peers. The more than 100 items range from devices to encourage and teach communication to toy adaptors, making play time more accessible for children with disabilities. These items are now available for short-term loan to Philadelphia preschool and childcare staff as well as families, at no charge. "These items," Goldman says, "will prepare young children for a life-long learning process with full participation that begins BEFORE the classroom. To use stimulus funding in this way is a great investment for the future of our community, Commonwealth and country." Even though the stimulus funds end in June, 2011, the availability of the purchased equipment, and the newly developed skills of staff and parents, will endure.
The devices are now part of Pennsylvania's Assistive Technology Lending Library, accessible on line through the Institute's website: www.disabilities.temple.edu/piat. Once on the Equipment Catalog page, users can search for "Early Intervention/Elwyn" to find these items.
To see the equipment in person, professionals and families can schedule an appointment for a free demonstration right on Temple University's main campus. In addition, the Institute offers free training to pre-service educators, families and individuals currently providing services to young children with disabilities.
For more information about borrowing devices or to schedule an appointment for a demonstration or training, contact the Institute: firstname.lastname@example.org, 800-204-PIAT (voice), 866-268-0579 (TTY) in state only, or 215-204-1356 (voice/TTY).