A Families First Webinar
Presented by Stacy Phillips, Project Coordinator for Leadership Development, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. Recorded April 20, 2022. About Families First.
STACY PHILLIPS: I am ready.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thanks. Good morning, everybody and thank you for being here today. My name is Jamie Ray-Leonetti and I'm the associate director of policy at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.
And today, I am very pleased to be here to introduce one of our Family Leadership Development programs for you. This is part of our Families First series and I have the great pleasure of being able to introduce our speaker today, who is also my colleague, Stacy Phillips. So I'm going to just take a moment to introduce her and then, I'm going to turn the program over to her. And I do want to just remind everybody, as Stacy mentioned, this program is being recorded so if, for any reason, you don't want to be on the recording, you might want to turn your video off, or what have you, but if you're comfortable with it, we encourage you to keep it on so that we can have a nice interactive session.
So Stacy Phillips is the project coordinator of assistive technology programs at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University and I would add that she is now also a project coordinator for Family Leadership and Development. She has many responsibilities here at the Institute, including coordinating assessments for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are also deaf under the Harry M. waiver She does outreach for the iCanConnect PA program, which is a deaf/blind equipment program, and she conducts demonstrations of devices for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and may need assistive technology.
And as I mentioned, she recently joined the Leadership Development team to support Competence and Confidence-- Partners in Policymaking, Partners in Policymaking Early Intervention, and the Families First program.
Before coming to the Institute, Stacy spent 10 years in special education and autism support. She has a Master of Science in restorative practice and education and a Bachelor of Science in special education and elementary education and she has certification and education of the deaf and hard of hearing. She also holds additional certifications in American Sign Language studies and assistive technology. So with that, it's my pleasure to turn this program over to Stacy, to talk with you today about assistive technology for families. Stacy.
STACY PHILLIPS: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much, Jamie. That was a mouthful. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen, but that definitely gave a good overview of who I am and what I've done here at the Institute on disabilities and before coming here.
I'm really excited to be here with you today as part of our Families First trainings and we, at the Institute on Disabilities, pride ourselves in outreach. We love connecting with families and professionals who are providing services for not only children, but families across Pennsylvania so I appreciate you being here today. And we are going to talk about assistive technology for families. We're going to go over the AT Continuum and learn a little bit more about resources that you may need.
Jamie did a pretty good job at describing who I am so this is just kind of a visual representation. That is a picture of myself and my son. He is 10 years old. His name is Beckett, and Beckett, when he was three years old, was diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD, speech and language impairment so whole slew of things that impact his personality, behavior, and education.
I am very fortunate that I was already a special education teacher when he was diagnosed and I was able to advocate for him for proper education and not all families are that lucky that they spent eight years in college learning how to do that. So it has kind of been my mission, since I've been working here the last seven years, to ensure that families get the resources that they need to help them to better support their child.
So I do have a sign language certification and I attended Temple for my undergrad, as Jamie mentioned. I worked at Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the school district of Philadelphia during my teaching career. I also-- Jamie mentioned our Competence and Confidence-- Partners in Policymaking, or what we call C2P2-- I am also a 2018 C2P2 graduate and I was really fortunate to go through that program while working here. So I'm excited to be here with you today.
If you have questions, you can put them in the chat, you can raise your hand if you know how to use the Raise Hand feature, or you can hold them till the end. That is entirely up to you. I'm happy to stop and answer questions as they come up for you. And Jamie will be supporting me by checking the chat box. So rest assured, we will make sure we address your question.
Our learning outcomes for today, I'm going to talk about what is assistive technology and that, I will probably keep referring to as AT so I don't have to keep saying assistive technology. I'm going to review the AT Continuum with you. Assistive technology encompasses low-tech and no tech, as well as high-tech items and I'm going to go over that so you have a better understanding of what is deemed AT.
I'm going to talk about incorporating assistive technology in the home for children with disabilities and some things that you can do if you are a parent of a young one. And also identify resources. Like I mentioned, I pride myself in providing those resources to families because when you're navigating the special education system or the waiver system here in Pennsylvania, it is really challenging to know where to look. You might know what you need, but you don't even know how to find it. And so, my goal is to help you identify resources for students and for children and families. So we will get started.
So first up, what is assistive technology? A lot of times, when I tell people I work in assistive technology, they immediately think of high-tech items, devices, computers, and they think about augmentative communication devices-- people that are unable to speak that use some sort of speech-generated device. That is just one small piece of what AT is.
So these are the definitions for assistive technology from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the AT Act, which is the Assistive Technology Act of Pennsylvania Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capacity of a child with disability and that's from the AT Act.
And then, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act went on to add, it encompasses no tech/low-tech to high-tech devices. It may also mean generic technologies used for a student with a disability. Obviously, being an educational entity, they want to focus on students with disabilities, school-aged children and that includes preschool, elementary school, all the way up to the age of 21, if a child remains in school until they're 21.
And in the picture, there is just some examples of various forms of assistive technology. There's a Braille device and adaptive phones, a personal FM listening system, and hearing aids. All of these things fall under that umbrella of AT.
So I mentioned, AT falls on a continuum. So at the low end on the far left, we have no tech. Some technology is zero tech in the way that we think about it now. These are simple modifications, they're inexpensive, and ready-to-use, affordable tools. When the pencil was invented, it was considered technology because before that, people used ink and a feather to write. And so anything, even a pencil, can be assistive technology.
After I go through the continuum, I'm going to show examples. So don't worry if you're not sure exactly what that encompasses, but I will give you a hint. If you can buy it at the dollar store or maybe even Five Below, it's probably no tech assistive technology. Any tech is created to assist people. Assistive technology, the real big difference there is that it's assisting people with disabilities to do something that they wouldn't normally be able to do.
And then, we have low tech or sometimes, people refer to it as light tech and this is going to be less sophisticated, they're easy to learn, readily available, affordable tools. This is an item that might take a battery and it's ready to use. There's no real learning curve for you. It doesn't require training. It doesn't require assistance from a professional.
This is just something you can be like, OK, I'm going to pop a battery in this, I read the little instruction, we're ready to go. Again, something like this, you could probably find it Five Below or a similar store, like dollar store. Our team has actually gone out shopping at various stores and collected all of the different items that could be used as assistive technology and it's actually pretty interesting to see how many items could be found.
Moving up or down the continuum-- across the continuum-- we've got medium or mid-tech and so these are devices that may cost more money, they may require some training from a speech and language pathologist or other professional to learn how to use them. They would be relatively complicated mechanical devices. Generally, these are items that will require some charging, either have an outlet-- have to be plugged in or battery operated. And when we get through the examples, you'll be able to really see the difference in what I'm talking about.
And then, on the high end, we have high tech and this is where people's mind goes immediately when I say, I work in assistive technology. These are very advanced, designated devices for assistive technology. They are probably going to require some training for the user, meaning the child, for you, as a family or support person, to learn how to use them and generally, would include a team member to make the decision to purchase or utilize these devices.
They also might require ongoing support. A lot of communication devices start out really small and really simple with maybe like a touch screen type of Proloquo2Go or something of that nature, where there's a very limited amount of words or phrases that someone can put together based on their language development, but as they get better with it and grow and advance, this is going to need to be changed and adjusted for that individual. And so, they would require ongoing support. They're also going to be electronic and digital devices that are fairly expensive. And so generally these are things that require a letter of medical necessity, that you may have to get some support purchasing through your school that your child attends or through various funding, waiver funding, and physicians.
So as promised, I'm going to show you some examples. Does anyone have any questions about the continuum before I move on? I saw something in the chat, but I wasn't sure if it was a question. OK. Go ahead, Jamie.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: We look good. You're good.
STACY PHILLIPS: OK, OK. The first that I mentioned are no tech tools and on the screen, there are three pictures. One is some brightly-colored Post-It notes. Another are some highlighter markers-- some Sharpies-- and in the last photograph, there are pencils with various-sized pencil grips on them. You may not think of these things as assistive technology and for a person that does not have a disability, they aren't.
Highlighters, I used them all through college to highlight information that I didn't want to forget to study or what have you. Post-It notes-- so I don't forget something, I just jot down a little note. But if you're a person with executive functioning delays or disorder or you're a person with dyslexia who may have a print disability, these things become assistive technology. They're there to support someone that maybe cannot learn or read without these types of things. And that's why we call them no tech because you know what these things can do, you know how to use them, you've seen them, they're fairly inexpensive.
And the last one is pencil grips. Someone that has low muscle tone or some sort of writing just, difficulties, fine motor difficulties, there's so many different types and shapes of pencil grips. This is also really good for someone who has some sensory needs who might feel challenged holding a pen or a pencil. Putting a pencil grip on that pencil might make a huge difference for a child with various disabilities in that sensory needs or fine motor difficulty.
I'll give you an example that I've used. When I was an autism support teacher, I had a student who liked to kick. All day long under his desk, he would swing his legs and kick, kick, kick. Unfortunately, a lot of times, I was on the other end of that kicking. So my shins were constantly black and blue from sitting in front of him and doing one-on-one work.
So I went to the dollar store and I got giant rubber bands. I don't know if you've seen them, but they have enormous rubber bands at the dollar store and I bought about a pack of 20 of them. And I put all of these rubber bands on the legs of his desk in front of him and lined them up so they were about 3 inches tall worth of rubber bands.
And so, when he began kicking, he was able to get that sensory input of kicking and instead of hitting my shins, he was hitting the rubber bands and his foot was bouncing back. And so, I didn't tell him to stop. I didn't stop sitting in front of him to work with him. I simply came up with a very simple, no tech strategy and it worked. Sometimes it won't work, but in this case, it did. And so that is another example of how to implement no tech assistive technology.
OK. Next up, we have low-tech tools and as I mentioned, these are still going to be pretty inexpensive. They may take some creativity on your part, but they're not going to require a lot of training or ongoing support. And they are not going to be electronic or mechanical devices.
So on the screen, there are four pictures. One of them is a slant board. It is brightly colored in blue. And there is a communication board in the middle, a very easy laminated piece of paper with some pictures on it. There is a child with a weighted vest on and at the bottom is a communication book that I made. It has kind of-- well, I think I used a photo album for this and it has communication pictures on it that are laminated and have Velcro on them and there are Velcro strips through the book with dividers for toys, school, home, and emotions. And there's also food and beverages in there.
Something like this would be helpful for someone who is just learning to speak or communicate-- so early language learners, we refer to them as-- or a child who is not verbal, yet. And it's a really easy device. It's not a computer, it's not a designated iPad. This is something that you can make just utilizing resources online that are free. The photo album probably cost-- I don't know-- under $5. So these are considered some low-tech devices and they support all types of children.
The slant board, for example, my son has ADHD. He does not like to sit and learn or read. It is very easy to take whatever he is doing and attach it to that clipboard and allow him to walk around while he's working or while he's reading because he needs that sensory input. He likes to move, his body needs to move. And so this is just a simple example of something that you can do to support your child or a student with a disability that's considered low tech.
If there's no questions, I'm going to move on.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: I'm not seeing any questions.
STACY PHILLIPS: OK. Thank you. All right. So next up, we have medium or mid-tech and remember, these are going to be things that are a little more sophisticated than your no tech and low tech. These are going to be things that require batteries or a little bit of training for you and for the end user, the child.
And on the screen, there is a toy. I had one as a child. It's called a See 'n Say, if anyone's familiar with that. You normally would pull a drawstring and I always loved the farm animal one. It would land on a cow and the cow says moo-- that sort of thing.
So this is a different-looking See 'n Say because we've adapted it. We added some Velcro to it and added some additional pictures. And instead of the pull string, which may be really difficult for someone with a fine motor delay or fine motor challenge to operate, we made this a switch-adapted toy.
And you can see a better picture of what switch adapting looks like in the second picture where we have three toys and three different switches on one device. The switch itself is the hard black piece in the center with three switches on it-- a red, a yellow, and a blue. And each one, when this child hits the switch, activates the individual toys that are laid out in front of him while he lays on his tummy.
So why do this? Why switch adapt? Well, the Curious George pop-up toy requires someone to wind it kind of like a Jack-in-the-Box, if you've seen them. You have to wind it up and wait for it to spring up.
Some children can't do that, that's not physically possible for them, and so we switch adapt toys because it's really easy to do and only requires batteries and they're connected. So when he pushes that red button and even though he might only be able to get his pinky on there and may not have a lot of force behind it, he might not have a lot of pressure, he's able to activate that toy. This is also great for giving children an opportunity to make choices and so he gets to choose which toy he wants to play with depending on which switch he is activating. These are just a couple of examples of what a mid-tech adaptation would look like.
OK. We're going to move on to high tech so these are the expensive ones. These are the ones that require training. They take time to set up.
You have on the top left, a designated device for communication for someone who is not verbal. That device looks similar to an iPad, but it is specifically for someone to communicate.
You've got a Braille note taker on the top right with the Google screen. Humanware, I think, it's called, actually. And it's basically, being able to search online for someone who is blind or visually impaired or has vision loss and they're able to receive information via the Braille display at the bottom.
And then, you have a couple other examples of communication devices and screens that are interactive. So when I say high tech, this is usually-- like I said-- where people assume that I'm spending my days focusing on. A lot of these devices require specific training. They're going to need to be recommended after an assistive technology evaluation by a speech therapist, by a blindness and low vision expert, or someone who is versed in what we call AAC-- Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
So these high-tech communication devices, some speech and language pathologists don't have that background and unfortunately, a lot of the speech therapists in the schools-- and I know from Philadelphia, I only taught in Philadelphia, but a lot of them don't have that background in AAC. And so, you would need to seek out specific evaluations for something like that from an AAC specialist.
And that's also part of what we do here at the Institute on Disabilities. We have people that are specialists in assistive technology in all different areas.
You would also, for things like this, need a letter of medical necessity and so an evaluation has to happen. These are also going to be the high-end devices that maybe schools don't have access to so that's just something to think about if you are leaning in this direction.
I was just checking to see if there were any questions in the chat. All right.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Nope. No questions.
STACY PHILLIPS: All right. Let me know. OK.
So assistive technology encompasses two things-- not just the device, but the services attached to them-- and so when I say AT services, these are the definitions for what that looks like. Assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.
Assistive technology services are also those that are necessary to enable the student and/or the IEP team-- IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan for school-aged children with disabilities-- the IEP team to use any of these devices that are specified. And so if you have a child who's receiving early intervention and they don't yet have an IEP, this is something that you might want to think about moving forward or for the future. They might have something called a 504 plan or an IFSP, which stands for Individualized Family Support Plan-- that's it.
Does anyone have questions about what that means, the devices and the services, or what that would look like for school-aged children? No-- yes. I see one. Sonia, do you want to-- go ahead.
SONIA WILSON: Yes. I have a question. I have two student currently who have IEPs already and me, as a parent, [INAUDIBLE] because they are very bright, but they're experiencing a lot of-- they have behavioral issues and right now, having a lot of educational [INAUDIBLE] and difficulty. So for me, as a parent, who has kids who went from behavioral issues and now they're having learning disabilities and difficulties in school, what is the best way that I could help them?
Like I said, they already have IEPs. They were diagnosed already by doctors. They're on medication to help with all of that. Now, it's just simply getting them to be able to concentrate and just get them on the right path and where they're supposed to be at their age level.
STACY PHILLIPS: Thank you for your question. It was a little hard for me to hear you and I don't know if it was my headphone. So you have two children, both have IEPs, and you're saying they're having a lot of behavioral issues right now and learning disabilities?
SONIA WILSON: No. I'm sorry. They started off with behavioral disabilities in school and now, we're experiencing learning disabilities.
STACY PHILLIPS: OK
SONIA WILSON: [INAUDIBLE] behavior's under control where they [INAUDIBLE]. They're very fidgety and very hyper still. My 14-year-old, she's calm and [INAUDIBLE] able but now, I'm struggling as a parent to get them to be able to learn and focus where they're supposed to be. So what do I do as far as that part of getting them the learning part in that?
STACY PHILLIPS: OK. Thank you for your question. So obviously, not knowing the children, it's hard for me to say this is exactly what you should do. My suggestion would be to work with the school team to ask for support. There are resources for families-- obviously, this being one of them, Families First-- that you can reach out to. There are support groups that you can reach out to.
I think what's really important is for you to focus on what's most important right now. So being that my son has emotional and behavioral issues, as well as ADHD and speech and language, sometimes I have to say, it's not so important that he gets through his math class and does really well in math because I'd rather have his emotional well-being addressed. And so, I had to let go of my expectations for him educationally so that I, as a parent, had to figure out, what's the most important thing right now for us to target?
And, of course, that changes from year to year because my son's 10 and a half now, but as he grows and as he matures, certain things become less of a problem and other things become more of a concern.
And so, I think it's really important to have someone that you trust that you can reach out to, that you can talk to, and figure out what's most important for your children right now and for you, is it education or is it their behavior? And honestly, those things go hand in hand because they're not going to be able to sit and to learn and receive information if they can't regulate their own bodies or regulate their own emotions and behavior. And that's kind of where we are, as well, with my son.
Medication isn't the only answer, obviously. There needs to be other things put in place. And so, I would suggest always talk to your IEP team at the next meeting or request a meeting and say, these are my concerns for my child, these are my goals for my child. What can we do to get there, what are you all doing to help support them, and what can we do that we haven't done, yet?
So always question what's happening, always be aware of what they're doing to support your child, and then, try to come up with some creative ideas like, can we try this? Can we implement breaks? Can we implement some no tech assistive technology to keep them on track with their schedule? Or something to that effect.
SONIA WILSON: [INAUDIBLE]
STACY PHILLIPS: Yeah. And my contact information will be at the end of the presentation. I'm happy to talk more with you about it when we're done, if you'd like.
SONIA WILSON: Absolutely. Yes. Thank you.
STACY PHILLIPS: Yeah. My pleasure. Great question.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Thanks, Stacy. I'm not seeing anything else.
STACY PHILLIPS: OK. I'm going to move on.
So I just mentioned some AT services and that assistive technology not only includes the device, but the services and so, this is kind of what it would look like.
An evaluation of those needs. In order to figure out what a child needs, there needs to be some sort of evaluation. You target what they need and what they want to be able to do and that's how you figure out what devices could be implemented. Then, the next step would be purchasing, leasing-- which is borrowing-- or providing for the acquisition of assistive technology. If your child is in school, it is the responsibility of that school district to support you in getting an assistive technology device for your child, if that's what is needed.
And it is a team effort. This is not an individual decision where you walk into the school and say I think my kid needs an iPad, I think it would be great for them. It has to be a team effort. There has to be some questions and answers and trialing. I highly recommend collaborating. As a parent, as a former educator, it really makes a huge difference for your child if everyone's on the same page and able to collaborate.
Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, or adapting AT devices-- those high-end devices that we looked at, those communication devices. Any child with seating and mobility needs-- multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy-- anyone who is in some sort of adaptive seating, there's a lot that goes into that process and making sure that the device that has been selected is customized to fit their needs.
Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services-- again, that would be someone like a speech and language pathologist or an occupational therapist or a physical therapist. And generally, schools have all three of these people working in schools in the district that you might be involved in. If the child is at an intermediate unit, they also have all of these individuals on site to support the various needs that the child has.
And the last one is training or technical assistance, not just for your child. If you have a communication device, like TouchChat or Proloquo, and you're giving your child an iPad with that program on it, but you don't know how to use it, it's not going to be very beneficial. So everyone, not just the child, but the family and the team members, needs to be involved in that training and technical assistance piece. Modeling is incredibly important when it comes to assistive technology and communication devices so making sure that everyone on that team knows how to utilize that piece of data is crucial for success, I should say.
So how do you know what type of AT is appropriate or right for your child? A thorough way of determining that is to have an AT evaluation by a professional and if your child is school-aged, that would happen through the school. You could talk to the school psychologist and the special education team and ask for an AT evaluation. If that's something that you're going to do, I also highly recommend that you put that in writing and email it and sign hard copies of letters-- excuse me-- just because once the school team receives that letter, they have a very limited time that they actually have to comply or respond to you.
So conducting device trials is another way to test drive the AT. I would never purchase something without letting the child try it out because they might not like it and it might not work to fit their needs once you figure out what it is they need to be able to do. And so, there is a couple of options for you.
The first one is borrowing from the AT Lending Library and the link is there. The Institute on Disabilities, our technology team has an AT Lending Library. You can borrow all kinds of devices free of charge up to nine weeks. It is delivered to you via UPS and you send it back via UPS. This is a great way to trial a device before you're attempting to purchase it or get funding for it.
For school-aged children, the team, not the family, can borrow also from PaTTAN or PaTTAN-- depending on how you say it. That stands for Pennsylvania Technical Training Assistance Network-- I think that's right-- and their website is here if you just want to take a look and see what's available. But again, families and caregivers are not allowed to borrow from PaTTAN. That is something only the school team is allowed to do.
OK. We're going to move on to AT in the home so what would it look like to adapt different things in the home for a child needing some sort of AT? The first one is bath time. So here, you see the little one in a bathtub in an adaptive seat. This is a safe seat. You could even attach things to the front of the bar in front of them, like light tech communication. Laminating things is a great way to implement and to bring along communication for a child that is an early language learner or non-verbal.
And in the center picture, it's a little hard to see, but there's actually, in the shower, a laminated communication core board attached with a binder ring in the actual shower. So communication can happen anywhere and these are just some examples of assistive technology that's low tech/no tech that can be used in the bathroom. The other good thing about laminating is that you can take a bleach wipe and clean it off. So no germs.
Here are some examples for tools for playtime. There's four pictures in here and the top left is something that I made and it is basically, a choice board-- if you're familiar with this-- giving children a choice of what they want to do. This could work for a student who's blind or has low vision or a student that is not able to communicate verbally. There's four squares, four different colors, and each of them has different items on it-- a ball, crayons, a plastic cup, and a storybook. And so allowing someone that tactile input to feel those items and make a choice of what they want to do for playtime or at that moment is a great way to give a child autonomy and let them make those decisions, even if they don't have a way to communicate it, otherwise.
We also have a little girl in the top right who has a large crayon with an adaptive strap-- it's hard to see. We're going to look more at those in a minute. But if holding a crayon is difficult for whatever reason, whether it's sensory issues, fine motor issues, this might be a good option, having an extra-large fat crayon.
On the bottom left, there's also a Buzz Lightyear switch-adapted remote-controlled version of the toy. Normally, they have pretty small buttons that you have to press and if someone has any kinds of difficulty doing that, mobility issues, this would be a great option for them. So there's a lot of different choices when it comes to playtime that are no tech, low tech, and mid-tech and that's what you're seeing here.
We also have some adaptive devices for mealtime. Mealtime can be a challenge for families who have children with disabilities if they're not able to locate any adaptive devices and so, here's just a couple of options on the screen. The first one is a strap that attaches to the hand and the fork slides inside of it and so if someone's not able to grasp the fork, they can use a strap to help feed themselves. This encourages independence and gives kids a sense of accomplishment. They're adjustable, which is great, so they fit any hands, whether they're tiny little hands or grown-up hands.
Similarly, in the middle, these are nylon so they're rubbery, they're flexible, and they come in all different sizes. They're really inexpensive. I think, on Amazon, you can get a 10 pack for $8.90 so under $10. They can attach to paint brushes, crayons-- like we saw in the previous slide-- toys. So you've got an action figure and you're able to attach these straps. So for someone that has that issue with their Pincer grasp, with fine motor, they're able to just attach them-- that little handle-- and this can make all the difference for a child who wants to have a play date, but is feeling self-conscious because they can't hold the items, as well, and this is going to assist them.
And the other thing on the screen are these Vive-- V-I-V-E-- Vive foam tubes and they slide over-- they come in three different sizes-- a really skinny, a medium, and a larger hole. So you can fit in makeup brushes, so even an adult with fine motor difficulty. They make it easier to grasp and they also add a little weight to it. Some people do better when they have a weighted item, depending on the nature of their disability. So silverware, paint brushes, again makeup brushes-- that sort of thing. And that's how you can adapt mealtime. And these are just some suggestions for you and examples.
So the last thing I want to show you is some resources. So if you have children in early childhood or even in elementary and going all the way up, there are plenty of resources for you out there and I always love to leave people with this information. So us, here at the Institute on Disabilities, our Family Leadership programs. This Families First presentation, we will be doing several others in the month of May and June and continuing on next year, all different topics to support families and caregivers. So the link is there to reach out to us to see what's coming up.
The next one is the Wrights Law resource and that information is there if you need to seek some support if you're having challenges getting services for your child.
The EITA-- Early Intervention Technical Assistance-- for Pennsylvania, they are phenomenal and we've gotten to work with some of their team members a lot recently. They also have a fantastic app. It is free to download. It can be downloaded on Android devices, as well as iOS iPhones.
It is extremely interactive. There's a ton of resources on there, including a sign language program for families, which is awesome. I checked it out last night. Since my background is in sign language and deaf studies, I wanted to see how accurate it was. I went on and tested it. It's fantastic. So I highly recommend downloading that app or visiting their website.
The last one on here is the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, or OCDEL, and their website is there. Also, tons of great resources for families, teachers, and caregivers.
If you need specific resources for assistive technology, our technology team here is referred to as TeachOWL and it stands for Technology for Our Whole Lives. You can get device demonstrations either on Zoom or in-person here in our office. You can borrow devices-- as I mentioned, it's like a try before you buy program-- up to nine weeks, you can borrow five different devices, or if you're borrowing an iPad with apps, you can have five different apps on there completely free of charge and a great way to test out something before you start working on getting that designated device for your child.
Lastly, we have a program that has reused equipment so it's kind of like Craigslist, but for assistive technology. It's not going to be the latest and greatest models or versions of items, but this might work for a child who has some aggression or physical disability where they're not able to hold onto the device as well because then, you're not spending a lot of money for something brand new that might get damaged. And the website is there. It's techowlpa.org and REEP is what we refer to as our reuse program-- R-E-E-P. Most of those items are free and you do have to come pick them up, but if you go to the website and find something you like, you can sign up to have it completely free.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: So Stacy, I do see we have a question in the chat.
STACY PHILLIPS: Mm-hmm.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: Sonia says, I'm curious about a program that I heard about called Tomatis. Do you know anything about that? T-O-M-A-T-I-S.
STACY PHILLIPS: I am not familiar with that, but now that you mentioned it, I will definitely look into it. Is it an app?
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: It's a headphone program-- it's a sound program where, I believe, there's either music or voices played in one or two ears at a time. There could be background sounds, like it's supposed to-- my lay understanding is that it's supposed to help to kind of rewire some central auditory processing.
STACY PHILLIPS: So cool.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: [INAUDIBLE] that may be muddling sounds and distorting words.
STACY PHILLIPS: OK. I have not heard of this, but I will definitely check it out. That is very interesting to me. I'm always trying to learn about new programs and devices.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: Yeah
STACY PHILLIPS: That sounds really interesting and it makes sense that it would work with music because music is so fascinating to me with children with disabilities. Just, different music has such a huge effect on calming or concentration or executive functioning--
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: Yeah.
STACY PHILLIPS: --so that is very interesting-- T-O-M--
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: And I think they use-- I think Gregorian chant is one of the things. I don't know how it's different than just listening to Gregorian chant if you were just to look it up on YouTube, but I read that when you're doing the program, you can't listen to any other music via headphones. So there's something kind of concentrated that I guess is going on.
STACY PHILLIPS: That's really fascinating.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: Yeah.
STACY PHILLIPS: I love that.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: If you're not familiar with it, is it even worth my time to look at all these websites with different resources to see if they're available to borrow or is it like, if it's not even if it's probably not on this
STACY PHILLIPS: So it's definitely not in our lending library here. If it was, I would know. But when we find something worthwhile, we can recommend it being purchased and I will definitely email the director of assistive technology here at the Institute. Her name is Kim Singleton. If you also want to reach out, you're welcome to do that. But I will do a little digging and research on this Tomatis and ask her if it's something that we should add to the lending library.
Especially now, to be honest with you, this time of year is really good to ask for things like that if there's something you don't see because it's the end of our fiscal year and we try to spend down any last money that we might have. And we're always looking for the newest, latest, and greatest, but it has to be research-based and we definitely like to play around with things to make sure it's worthwhile, first. But I will also ask my colleagues on the AT team if that's something that they're familiar with and see if it's something that we could add to the lending library.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: OK. Cool. So you think I should reach out directly to Kim Singleton, you said.
STACY PHILLIPS: You can or if you want to get in touch with me, I'm actually going to-- there's my contact information. You can reach out to me-- email@example.com-- and then, I'll have your information. And I can get in touch with you after I do a little digging on this because I am quite a nerd and admittedly, I will be happy to do a little research on this.
This is my direct number, as well. If anybody has questions for me, if something comes up for you later, or you just need support, I'm happy to be a support person for you. 215-204-3373 is how to reach me directly and I'm very good about getting back to people via voicemails.
Is everyone OK if I stop sharing my screen? Did you have a chance to get my contact information down? I'm going to take that as a yes. OK.
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: It looks good, Stacy, and you're getting much thanks in the chat.
STACY PHILLIPS: Oh, thank you so much, everyone. I appreciate it. I was happy to be here. I know we're at 12 o'clock and I don't want to go over so I appreciate you being here today. I hope you learned something valuable that'll support you or the families that you support or your children.
Jamie, did you have anything to add before we--
JAMIE RAY-LEONETTI: I do not. I just want to say thank you to everyone for coming and please watch your email as we will be sending out announcements in the future for upcoming programs.
STACY PHILLIPS: Great. Well, thank you all so much. I hope you have a wonderful day.
SONIA GORDON-WALINSKY: Thank you so much.
STACY PHILLIPS: Thank you.
This session is an activity of the Philadelphia Interagency Coordinating Counsel (PICC), funded by Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) and Elwyn Early Learning Services.