Facilitating Learning Through
Technology has reached the point where it’s possible to capitalize on strengths and adapt to weaknesses in learning through assistive technology devices. However, finding the perfect match of technology and specific needs requires some expertise.
Jody Bernstein is a Learning and Assistive Technology Specialist. Her personal background and education make her the ideal candidate for creating a tailored program of assistive technology for individual disabilities, whether they are physical, mental or emotional.
She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College in elementary and secondary special education and extensive experience designing appropriate curriculums to meet the varied needs of students. Her early experience adapting programs to specialized needs began through her work at the 92nd Street Y in working with teens with mental disabilities, teaching them socialization and life-skills. She took features of the curriculum she was using with nursery school students such as the idea of patterns, and used it to facilitate the learning of the teenagers.
Weinstein herself grew up with a learning disability, dyslexia. But she was bright and had strong family support and a tutor who was a wonderful mentor. Bernstein had the courage to advocate for herself, and even the self-discovery to realize that as long as information was read aloud to her, she was fine. In listening to her mother’s collection of recordings for the blind, Jody realized that she is “someone who processes best in the auditory mode.” She easily absorbed the same information by listening that she struggled to understand on paper. She began to have exams read to her including the SATs, but with the same time constraints other students faced. She also sought out additional assistive devices that she could use for optimal learning. Bernstein, while at Calhoun High School in New York City, received the National Award for Learning through Listening. While in college, as both an undergraduate and graduate, Bernstein continued to have her books scanned and read aloud. She even found a program that read her papers aloud to her as she wrote them.
It was at Kingsborough Community College, while tutoring college-age students, that Bernstein first began to synthesize her own experience and knowledge towards helping others optimize the use of assistive technology. Her supervisor encouraged her to apply for a job at a grant-funded technology center at Kingsborough that she helped to design for students with learning and physical disabilities. She points out emphatically “these devices are not a crutch. They are not taking the place of reading or writing, but are a different way of accessing the information.”
Currently, Bernstein is in private practice in Manhattan, providing services to students seven years of age and older who have the maturity to be able to use technology. As part of her consultation, she meets with the family and child, ascertaining the source of learning problems, and figuring out strengths and weaknesses. Based on the information, she develops an array of programs, individually designed to suit the child’s needs. The family then purchases the appropriate programs and in following consultations, Bernstein’s assistant—a computer expert—installs the devices, while Bernstein trains the child, and, depending on the child’s age, the family, on how to use the new technology.
Bernstein’s assessments are comprehensive, taking into account the child’s emotional and psychological needs as well as learning preference, whether it be auditory or visual. Some of Bernstein’s innovative solutions, which she initially used at the Kingsborough lab, include adapting technology for low vision to individuals with reading difficulties. In addition to the zoom text, lines can be inserted to highlight one’s place in reading. Bernstein recommends zoom text for Attention Deficit Disorder as well to keep students focused on their task. In cases such as dysgraphia—difficulty in writing—Bernstein will recommend a program that allows for the creation of flash cards and perhaps a mouse that’s easier to maneuver, as these students often have difficulty with traditional mice. Bernstein works to make sure that all her students are as organized as possible, and uses color coding with folders, as well as on the computer to facilitate learning.
Other general software that Bernstein recommends to students includes advanced dictionary and spell check programs. Bernstein indicated that Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) provides unique listening devices for books, with the special feature of allowing the listener to bookmark pages. When becoming a member of the National Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Andrew Heiskell library, Bernstein indicated, individuals diagnosed with a print disability, are eligible for a free lifetime loaner of a four track cassette player for the special book recordings.
Bernstein is very active in the educational community, providing consultations for tutors affiliated with private schools as well as for individual children and their families. She has the perfect mix of empathy, understanding and expertise to make her uniquely poised as an effective, dynamic and unusual educator who gets results! Her own personal saga is a testament to surmounting the odds.#
For a consultation with Jody Bernstein, please call 212-249-2412, or email email@example.com