Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Ready for a New Semester in College

The one piece of advice that I give to the students who are new to college is to sit down with a parent (or another support person) and review the syllabus together.  Every professor gives a syllabus the first day of class, and it contains all the rules, regulaltions, and assignments for the semester.  One of the most common adjustments that students with a disability need to realize is that if something is in writing, they have been told.  These students are very used to parents running interference for them by reminding them what to do and where to go, along with checking their work, verifying their needs, and talking to their teachers.  If that kind of enabling  is still happening at the college level, these students might not make it.  They need to take control of their responsibilities without being reminded by someone else.  It's a delicate balance.  Reviewing the syllabus together helps with that transition and makes the semester less problematic.  At 18, they are considered the legal adult and need to be self-advocating on their own.  Parents will call my office with a question and then put their child on the phone.  Why didn't that young adult call me directly?  It's a baby step, but growing up starts with baby steps.  If students are working with the Disabilites Office, they need to keep their advisor informed when they have a problem in class so that the advisor can help as needed.  Most importantly, keeping the Disability Office "in the loop" is the only way we will know there is a problem because college advisors do not usually "check-up" on things without a good reason.  If your young adult has a disability that requires a personal attendant, then that individual will assist as needed alongside the student.  As parents you can stay involved in your young adults lives, but you also need to teach them independence one step at a time. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some Last Minute Technology for the Holidays

• Speech-to-Text

Someone who has low vision or hand movement restrictions can use a speech-to-text product like Dragon Naturally Speaking, one of Nuance voice control products. Nuance voice Controls will allow users to use voice commands to dictate emails to Blackberry, to add appointments, and to search the web. Sony ICD-SX46 Digital Voice Recorder can be used with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Software. Tablet PCs have a sensitive screen designed to interact with a complementary pen. You can use the pen directly on the screen like a mouse to select, drag, and open files and can be used in place of a keyboard to handwrite notes. Tablet PCs should also have speech-to-text technology. Nexus 1 Smartphone has a Speech-to-Text feature as well.

• Text-to-Speech

Screen readers are also available for free or purchase, depending upon the product. ReadPlease is a free screen reader for home use that reads text that has been cut and pasted to the screen reader on a computer., but you can also by a more sophisticated version.  Students who are blind can use JAWS to listen to everything on their computer. Zoom Text and Magic also have text readers built into their software. Electronic pens are available also that can read notes aloud, scan and store text, transfer information to PDAs, Smartphones, and Personal Computers. Some of these pens can also translate English in other languages. The Pulse, Smartpen by Live Scribe lets the user record notes and then replay the written words by tapping on the notes. Notes can be saved to the computer and shared as Flash videos, PDF files, or audio files.