Miranda, a clever and determined 11 year old girl, has lots to say and takes great pride in earning good grades in school. She thoroughly enjoys novel studies in Language Arts, as well as Social Studies, Music, Computers, Art and singing in the school choir. After school, she is equally as active, and is involved in singing lessons, Girl Guides, and swimming lessons.
With so much on the go, you wouldn’t know that Miranda has Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP). FOP is a genetic disorder which causes extra bone formation and progressive fusion of joints. At present, Miranda has limitations in her spine, both arms and her left ankle, which restricts her ability to reach out in front of her, above her head and walk quickly. However, this does not deter her academically, and she is always enthusiastic about producing something interesting when school projects are assigned.
The school district’s Occupational Therapist has worked closely with Miranda over the years, monitoring her ability to complete functional tasks such as sitting at a desk, writing, typing, dressing and grooming. Miranda is able to hold and manipulate a pencil to draw and write though her posture and limited mobility in her shoulders, elbows and forearms makes the task challenging and fatiguing.
Miranda’s Occupational Therapist and Resource Teacher were keen to introduce assistive technology this year to ease the physical demand of writing and so the district identified her team as a priority for receiving Tier 3 student-based solution support. With the support of the team’s SET-BC consultant, Miranda trialed various physical access supports to be used in conjunction with a laptop. Miranda was active and decisive in knowing what would work for her. She trialed a Penny and Giles joystick, an external trackpad, a half keyboard, a Kensington Trackball and a thumb trackball.
The thumb trackball was a perfect fit for Miranda. It allowed her to be able to sit upright and supported in her chair, with the thumb trackball resting in her hand on her lap. Miranda was able to navigate the desktop, as well as type, with the use of the windows inbuilt onscreen keyboard option. To complement Miranda’s writing she is also using Co:Writer (word prediction software) to reduce the number of clicks she needs to type a word, and this ultimately increases her written output.
To use in tandem with the onscreen keyboard, Miranda trained on Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech-to-text software). Things were off to an impressive start when Miranda confidently selected, and then proceeded to fluently read ‘Kennedy’s Inauguration Speech’ demonstrating her above average reading level. Once she completed training the voice recognition files, Miranda picked up the DNS command lingo in no time, and was writing grammatically correct sentences with her voice.
Introducing the technology into the classroom has been a gradual process for Miranda. She is at times hesitant to utilize tools that make her look ‘different’ while at the same time she very much wants to continue to earn good grades, and keep up to, or above her peers. With that in mind, she is adopting the use of the technology more readily as the year progresses. A great testament to her supportive school team, and to her determination to succeed!
Miranda continues to be an active and vocal member of her classroom community. She is looking forward to the future and wants to become a kindergarten or grade one teacher when she grows up. We can definitely see a day where she, herself, is leading a class of students using technologies we haven’t even imagined yet!