Making the Impossible, Possible: Assistive Technology Helps Students Overcome
Ozark parent Amanda Barnes Adams wants the community to know that everyone has something to say — even if they can’t verbally speak. That’s why the Ozark School District’s special education program at East Elementary is so near and dear to her heart; through staff and assistive technology, her 10-year-old son Cooper can communicate.
“This technology has given him a voice so he can communicate to us what he really wants,” she said. “We can hand this device to him and he can tell us if he wants a drink, or if he wants to eat, or if he wants to go outside. It’s been amazing. We’ve seen a lot of changes in him.”
Cooper uses LAMP — Language Acquisition through Motor Planning — Words for Life, a pre-programmed vocabulary program that helps students who are non-verbal or have limited verbal abilities to communicate. The technology is used throughout the District, however, since East Elementary is home to the District’s elementary special education essential skills program, the school installed a large board with the LAMP vocabulary on the playground, as well as one in the cafeteria and one in each main hallway.
Lori Lewis, a speech-language pathologist at East Elementary, said the boards are thanks to East Elementary’s Parent-Teacher Association and allow students in special education using the technology to communicate in other areas of the school, as well as encourage all students to learn how to communicate with students with limited verbal abilities. The boards were installed last year right before Spring Break, making this school year the first they’ve really been used.
“Students have communicated with their para-professionals and their teachers when taking walks around the school and while they are on the playground. They have communicated that they are hot, that they want to go inside and for someone to take them to the swings. This is the purpose for the communication boards. Everyone has a voice and can get their wants and needs met,” Lewis said. “Our ultimate goal is to get students in special education to transition and be productive and effective in the real world. To do that, they have to be able to communicate.”
While LAMP is a vital tool, assistive technology doesn’t have to be high-tech. It ranges from walkers and wheelchairs, to adaptive seats and ergonomic keyboards, to read-to-write and voice-to-text technology. Assistive technology allows students to participate and be more independent.
“Without these tools, kids can’t access the curriculum, their peers or their environment in general,” said Stephanie Mundinac, a teacher at Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center who has specialized training in assistive technology. “I think assistive tech brings opportunities to our students that make the impossible, possible.”
Assistive technology is used in the classroom to increase communication skills, mobility skills and academic skills. Executive Director of Special Services Jeff Simpson said Ozark uses a collaborative education model to allow differentiated instruction, which can make a life-changing impact on a family.
“We have teams of people in place who care and are in this profession for the right reasons — to make a positive impact on students’ lives,” he said. “They have searched out the types of solutions that kids need and make sure that service is then available.”
Clockwise from top left: Mollie Tourville likes using her “talker.” Mollie was an East Elementary student when this photo was taken in February 2020. Now she uses her “talker” at Ozark Middle School.
Lori Lewis, a speech-language pathologist at East Elementary, works with student Cooper Adams on a LAMP device, which allows students who are non-verbal or have limited verbal abilities to communicate. Photo taken in February 2020.
Thanks to East Elementary’s Parent-Teacher Association, four LAMP boards were installed at East Elementary and help students better communicate.