New York City
March 2003

Technology & Inclusion at Children’s Center
by Nancy Glass

The Children’s Center School, a division of Queens Centers for Progress, in Jamaica Queens, offers comprehensive educational and clinical services to children with special needs, from birth through twenty-one years of age. Students at the school present with a variety of disabilities, ranging from mild to profound. While many students are multiply-handicapped, the school also services “typically developing” youngsters who are often participants in inclusionary programs where children with and without disabilities share the same classrooms.

A special feature of the Center is its “Technology Team”. This team is comprised of physical, speech and occupational therapists, a computer teacher, carpenter, and an adaptive equipment specialist. The team meets weekly to assess students with physical disabilities who may profit from using technology to enhance their educational experience, and help them to achieve more independence.

The Technology Team might recommend augmentative communication devices (devices which allow nonverbal children to communicate), power wheelchairs, adapted computer keyboards, and a variety of access switches, which may be used to operate electronic toys, computers, and communication devices. These switches (for children with limited hand function and mobility) may be operated by the slightest movement by any part of the body of a more severely physically impaired child.

The Technology Team’s services do not end when the student leaves at the end of the day. Through the Home Equipment Project, families receive evaluations in the home setting to determine their need for special equipment and simple home modifications which will assist them with daily care and improve their child’s independence. The Children’s Center provides, often free of charge, items not funded through any other source.

The school maintains an Adapted Toy Lending Library of devices to lend to families for short term home use. When a child tires of a toy, parents may send the item back and receive a different toy. The colorful and appealing toys allow for active play and reinforcement of skills learned at school.

While technology greatly enhances the learning opportunities for the students with physical disabilities, it allows for wonderful interactions with the typically developing children who attend the school. These children are used to friends and classmates in power wheelchairs zipping by in the halls. They think nothing of “conversing” with a learning partner who may use synthesized speech to respond. At the Queens Centers for Progress, technology gives new meaning to the concept of inclusion.#

Nancy Glass is the Director of the Children’s Center School.

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