The “Closing the Gap” conference has become known for recognizing the best in educational assistive technology in the country. The special services group from LCSD #2 has been singled out for their proficiency at delivering assisted technology in a rural setting.
According to Nathan Wescott, director of special services within the district, being able to teach students the same curriculum as the typical class mate is the driving force for the department. The group, headed up by Jackie Hodgeson of Etna Elementary, uses different technology devices to help them teach their students using different visual applications and voice dictation.
The groups started nine years ago, because where we are located, people recognized the need to have assistive technology to help students access the work that they needed,” Hodgeson said. “It was determined that some students on IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) needed help to meet standards and in some cases it required this assistive technology.”
Some of the ongoing challenges of these students include visual impairment, cognitive recognition, proficient motor skills and even difficulty in simple communication. Technology and training has helped the group come up with a plan to help.
“We presented the same thing a couple of summers ago in Lander at a leadership conference,” said David Ruthardt, AT Team Member. “We decided to go ahead and ask if we could present at the national conference. There are huge districts and small ones and we feel we have a pretty good model for rural districts who might be looking to improve upon delivering this type of assistance.”
According to information provided by the conference, the LCSD #2 team has spent the last nine years overcoming different obstacles and will show those in attendance how to share the development of a team approach, engage in training and become versed in policies and procedures before implementing different recommendations.
It is a part of education that has seen consistent need but the technology to deliver this aid has changed rapidly.
“It has already come leaps and bounds,” Ruthardt said. “An example in our district is a student who needed a communication device and before now, it might cost between $5,000-$10,000. Now you can get similar applications for a fraction of the cost and it’s much easier for the students to carry and use.”
It is this constantly changing technology that requires continual training, but Hodgeson says that LCSD #2 and the State of Wyoming help in many ways.
“We are fortunate that the state has a loan library and we have had fantastic support of our administrators in this district,” she added. “They have been behind us the whole time. There also takes some professional training so people can know how to use the technology and how to use it with individual students. The process is ongoing and very fluid.”
Those who have put together the presentation for the conference include: Kellan Bagley, CCC-SLP, AT Team Member, Afton Elementary School; Leesa Campbell, Special Education Teacher, AT Team Member, Osmond Elementary; Tawny Christensen, Special Education Teacher, AT Team Member, Star Valley High School; Jackie Hodgeson, Special Education Teacher/Case Manager/AT Team Chair, Etna Elementary; Wendy Hurd, AT Technician, AT Team Member, Star Valley High School and David Ruthardt, AT Team Member, Star Valley Middle School.