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Become Involved With the Maryland Assistive Technology Network

Category Professional Learning, Strategic Collaboration
Imperative Access, Equity, Progress
Resource Type Article, Resource

I believe that the Maryland Assistive Technology Network (MATN) is a goldmine waiting to be found. I attend all of their workshops and webinars that I am able to and there is now an initiative to encourage families to join. Events are free and top quality speakers share their knowledge. If you are reading this blog and have not yet registered to become a member, I encourage you to give it a try. It is free and open to anyone who would like to join. First you have to join the Maryland Learning Links which is also free.  Once you are a member of the online community of MATN you will be able to join in ongoing discussions with experts from around the state, county and globe. You will receive priority registration for events and exclusive access to web content.

Watch videos to learn how to use technologies and to promote new learning

When specific devices, apps or accessibility options have been suggested by professionals, try searching online for video training tutorials. For instance, if someone says you should set up a Bookshare account, you may want to try typing into your favorite search engine, “ Bookshare video training tutorial” to learn about digital books with text to speech that all students with a print disability can access for free and learn how you can get that set up at home.  It often speeds up the learning curve when you can see products in action.  Hundreds of free videos are available online- most are posted on YouTube or Vimeo and will show up in a Google search. Select the “video” tab in Google while searching and try typing “2014” so the information provided isn’t out of date.. Look for the videos that are relatively recent with the greatest number of positive reviews. Watching videos can also be helpful for students who benefit from seeing content presented in new ways. For instance, if your child has difficulty with a new math concept, taking a look at http://www.khanacademy.com may help.

Get connected with others in similar situations using social media

Check out online resources for learning more about technologies .  If you scroll to “sites with information grouped by diagnosis and disability” and select “learning disabilities/ learning difference” you will find a wealth of information!

Read information about assistive technologies and how they can help in your situation

Take a look  at my most recent book: – Assistive Technology in Special Education: Resources for Education, Intervention and Rehabilitation, 2ndEdition, Published 2014

GET ORGANIZED

De-clutter

Take a look in backpacks, closets, and desks. Many of us accumulate items that are no longer needed. Prior years’ schoolwork, permission slips never turned in, clothing that no longer fits and devices that don’t work or have been replaced with other tools can accumulate just about everywhere.  It’s never too late to get things in order. Don’t forget to de-clutter computers too. A clean looking home page, deleted temporary internet files in PCs, plenty of free space in hard drives, working printers and fast running computers are important. Find a new home for unused chargers, cords and devices.

Create Files and folders

Make sure to have all the necessary supplies and places to put them. Create paper as well as digital files for each of your child’s classes to have in a predictable place so that drafts of papers, class resources, and projects can be easily found. As folders (paper and digital) get unwieldy  take a look at creating new folders.
Use Online sites

Cloud services are becoming increasingly popular to store and share files. Using documents, images and video “in the cloud” has many advantages. It’s easier to search for desired items, they can be shared with others for collaboration and accessed from multiple online devices.  Specialized browser add-ins may be able to offer assistive technology features to make reading, writing and researching easier (Read and Write for Google.) Online sites can also be used for accessing from multiple locations or backing up important digital items. Documents can be shared with others and when kids forget completed homework assignments at home or their file is accidently deleted from a computer it’s a great relief when they can quickly access it online. The use of these sites also streamlines the process when parents or teachers provide feedback to students about written assignments. To get started figuring out which online tool is best for you, check out these sites:

Work on time management

Many parents use excellent time management skills when at work, yet neglect to do so at home. Enter dates in a calendar, take the time to plan ahead, and establish efficient routines for you as well as your kids. Set aside time now and enter all the dates for vacation days, team practices, games, music lessons, concerts, recitals, and major tests and other relevant information on your calendar. It’s often helpful to color code calendars. Different colors can be used for different people or different types of activities- whatever works for you.  Break larger tasks into more manageable chunks and create due dates in your calendar.  Try to figure out routines for the morning, afterschool, homework, bedtime etc.

It’s important for parents as well as students stay on top of assignments and to manage time well. Don’t overschedule. If needed, schedule free time so it doesn’t get taken up with something else. Make appointments with yourself for tasks you need to do on certain days.  The more we do to help demonstrate good time management skills in our own lives the more we will help our children learn to manage their scheduled and free time. For some parents, it is helpful to think of this as “work.” Use the skills from the working world that are needed for success and use them at home.

Cloud based calendars that can be used when online or offline are best so that the information can be synced across devices. Many people are reluctant to give up paper-based systems until they consider how difficult life would be if their paper based system was lost or became illegible. One of my favorite digital calendars is the free Google Calendar. It can be used with any operating system. Use calendars to plan ahead, organize tasks, manage time and help record important events to assist with remembering them in the future. There are many apps to help with time management and reminders relating to school or home life.

Below is a list of a few of my favorite calendars and task management/reminder tools. I have provided links to one of many available free online video tutorials for each one to show you how helpful it is to watch a video to learn how to use products. Keep in mind that each person uses products differently.