Thanks to educators with the know-how to make the most of assistive technology and augmentative communication tools, the sky’s the limit for students at the Longview School.
Longview, a public special education school in Montgomery County, Maryland, serves youngsters ages 5-21, with severe to profound intellectual and/or multiple disabilities. Despite their disabilities, Longview School Principal Sarah Starr says that her students “learn every day. They are all capable of becoming more independent and they can all enjoy a good quality of life.” Adds Transition Specialist Adriana Friedman: “At Longview, we are truly committed to seeing ability, not disability, in every student.”
With that philosophy in mind, Longview transition-aged students ages 14 to 21 all participate in the Secondary Program’s work-based learning instruction. The program uses work-based learning to prepare students for life after school and to provide them with the skills they need to take part in the labor force post-graduation. Assistive technology and augmentative communication devices from Enabling Devices are a critical part of helping students to engage in the tasks that go into building a business.
For example, students use a variety of Enabling Devices’ switches, the company’s switch-activated pouring cups and adapted battery operated scissors in the transition program’s artisan soap making business. Enabling’s adapted garden spray lets students water the plants they grow and sell as part of Flower Power, the program’s plant business.
“Roar Dash” a snack delivery service based on Door Dash, is another transition program business. Using Enabling’s Bright Red Switch, which lights up and vibrates, a student with visual impairment was able to activate his speech generating device, which made it possible for him to become more involved in running the business, says Principal Starr.
The work-based learning program’s greeting card business has been especially successful. Students created art for their greeting cards using various assistive technologies and augmentative communication systems to choose painting techniques and materials. One student used a head switch connected to a paintbrush to create the art for his card. Another student used a communication builder with pictures to choose their paint colors and textures.
Once the greeting card art was completed, designs were sent to the school system’s print shop. After they were printed, students worked on filling orders and delivering cards internally and through the U.S. Postal Service.
In addition to learning to build and run their businesses, Friedman says students also use their work experiences to practice academic and soft skills—such as interviewing, teamwork and professionalism—that will help them get hired for jobs in the community or possibly decide to start a business.
Some students have opportunities for internships in the community. Principal Starr says student businesses and internships “are a great way for the community to learn about our students and the school. The community can see the greatness our students bring and ensure their dignity.”
They also show Longview parents “what kids can do with assistive technology and support from the team,” says the principal. “Assistive technology has opened the door for that. Students can do this work when they have the tools. In fact, we couldn’t run our school without them.”
Yet, the tools are only as good as the educators and therapists who know how and when to use them says Principal Starr. Staff development teacher, Courtney Fike, has implemented a parent and staff web page for training on best practices infusing assistive technology in the home, school, and community. Longview is using the SETT framework to best match assistive technology with our students.
“We can have a ton of devices but until we work with the student and figure out what they need, what will work for them, we can’t make the most of the devices,” Principal Starr says. “Enabling Devices has an excellent selection of different types of switches. Once the right switch is matched appropriately to the person who needs it, it’s magic.”
Learn more about Longview and their student-led businesses at the Longview Family Resource website.