Assistive Technology Lab Opens for First Full Year

Date: 8/24/2011



Trident Academy, an independent K-12 school in Mt. Pleasant, offers one of the most comprehensive assistive technology labs in the United States for students with learning differences. Assistive technology is software and hardware that helps students compensate for challenges in learning and enables them to avoid the frustration that often accompanies those challenges.

Students are evaluated in reading, writing, organizational and study skills. Technology is then recommended for the areas of need. All Trident Academy teachers support the use of assistive technology in their classes. Several Trident Academy students take laptop computers to all their classes and each computer is loaded with software that assists the student throughout the day. Assistive technology becomes a piece of the formal education plan as its impact on the progress of the student is monitored.

“Learning differently from other students can be frustrating,” says Mary Silgals, M.Ed., MLIS, Trident Academy’s assistive technologist. “These students are smart and understand the concepts – they just process information slower or because of dysgraphia, they may write more slowly than the average student. Both learning difficulties may cause them to fall behind. Assistive technology tools may compensate for those difficulties and help take out the frustration that comes with a written assignment.”

Examples of Assistive Technology

A student who struggles with writing can use a graphic organizer or pre-writing software, which enables the student to organize his/her thoughts in a visual way before beginning to write. When a student cannot identify grammatical or spelling errors when written, he may be able to recognize them if heard. This student benefits from software that reads the words out loud as (s)he types. Improvement can be as simple as a student with dysgraphia typing his/her work instead of handwriting it. A student with dysgraphia has to concentrate on forming the letters as (s)he writes and, often will forget the concept before the completion of writing it.

A high school or college student can use an electronic pen to record lectures, and then transmit the recording into typewritten work. This is especially helpful for a student who can’t read his/her own writing or who has trouble with processing oral presentations.

“Assistive technology goes beyond the classroom for these students,” Silgals says. “It gives them independence and the ability to complete complicated tasks they’ve never done before on their own. Plus, these are tools students will be able to use in college and in their careers.”

Daily assistive technology servicesare included in the tuition of full-time students at Trident Academy. Students in the community can take advantage of the program one of two ways: a formal assistive technology assessment or one-on-one sessions with Silgals. The formal assessment consists of a six-hour evaluation, including observation in the classroom, and a report with recommendations.

For more information, contact Mary Silgals at 843-884-7046.

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