Friday, July 7, 2017

Assistive Technology

This summer P has a worksheet packet that he has to complete about a novel he's reading. He is less than thrilled about the novel, and I'm sure you can imagine his excitement level about the worksheets. 

But. BUT. It's a great opportunity to practice with the assistive technology he might use next year. And it's a natural opening to email his English Language Arts teacher and say, "Hey, this is my son and this is how he'll be doing his work. And see that hot mess of a job he did in the drawing portion of his worksheets? This is how you can avoid looking at that all year. Win-win!"

Now, I'm an experienced speech pathologist. Not as experienced as my colleagues, as they like to remind me (of the four SLPs I work with the most I have the least experience, although one of them only has an extra year on me). In my 13 years of practice I've worked with a wide variety of kids, and I've been lucky enough to help establish assistive technology systems for students. I'm not talking about augmentative communication systems here, like talking computers for kids who can't form words, but assistive technology for kids who can't read or write. My point is, I'm not an expert, but I've done this before. I've dealt with reluctant students, reluctant teachers, finicky technology, and assignments in need of adaptation. I know that technology is no magic wand, and that it takes work. And yet, I was still surprised when I offered my son a choice between a couple different pieces of technology, and he just said, "Oh Mom...I'll just write as neatly as I can."

"But honey," I said, "remember how hard writing is for you? You complain about your hand hurting and people not being able to read your writing."

"I'll just do the best I can," he replied, pulling the worksheet toward him.

I suppose I can understand that. Way back in 2010 when I gave birth to my daughter, E, I dislocated my sacroiliac joint. It's a little joint at the back of your pelvis, and when it comes loose it HURTS LIKE A BITCH. I could barely walk, and was stranded on the couch each day with a newborn and a 2 year old because walking just hurt too much. I went through physical therapy and it helped a ton, but the PT warned me that I would have to continue the exercises for the rest of my life to prevent the joint from dislocating again. She also warned me that I should get a rolling cart to carry my work stuff in, because holding all of my heavy bags on one shoulder would aggravate my hip.

I usually don't get around to the exercises...and I never did get that rolling cart.

Fast forward to a couple years ago, and my boss got us rolling carts to carry our stuff in. Did I thank her and start using it immediately, to save my hip from harm? Nope. I still juggle my work bag, my laptop case, my lunch bag, and whatever else I have to carry every day. Did I ever experience hip pain again? Oh sure, and sometimes I even have to put on a thick, nylon belt with stretchy velcro straps support the joint until the pain settles down again. But is the pain bad enough to force me to change what's familiar? Apparently not. Familiarity is comfortable, more comfortable than change.

My son is familiar with pencils and paper, and even though it hasn't been a successful relationship, it's comfortable. Unfortunately for him, he has what I don't...a mother who lives with me and is willing to force some change.

"Nope," I said. "You're doing this with technology. We're going to try it out so you're ready to use it next year." 

Sorry, honey. Change is never as comfortable as the status quo, but I know you'll be better for it.