The Kindergarten Bridge program in the Mount Vernon School District serves children of kindergarten-age, providing them with opportunities to learn the academic and social skills necessary to be successful in school. Each child in the program has an individualized education plan (IEP) with goals and objectives developed to meet their needs.
Cathy Maxwell, a special education teacher in the bridge program, believes that exposure to technology during the first year of school is vital to a student's success in later academic years. Through assistive technology, young children with disabilities can experience more success communicating their needs and making choices that provide the foundation for taking control of their educational future. To introduce her young students to technology, Ms. Maxwell created an accessible, technology-based learning station with funds awarded from an AccessSTEM Minigrant. The grant enabled her to purchase computers, printers, BigKeys keyboards, adaptive joysticks, and software to promote literacy, science, and math skills.
Including an accessible technology learning station in her classroom has yielded many benefits. Staff members have reported an increase in the students' comfort in using technology, ability to independently follow directions embedded in software, and engagement in independent skill building activities. Staff also reported a stronger sense of community among the students as well as an increase in social skills, such as taking turns. Ms. Maxwell reported, "having the adaptive equipment visible reminded students that we all have different needs in the classroom, and this is okay! Students who used the adaptive equipment taught others who wanted to learn how to use it. In this way, students who may not have otherwise been leaders had the opportunity."
The accessible technology station is a promising practice as it provides students with access to academic learning, early exposure to technology, and opportunities for interaction and leadership skill-building.
AccessSTEM mingrants were funded under The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM, Research in Disabilities Education award # HRD-0227995).