Access to the General Curriculum – Great IDEA, but How?

Adaptive access for Physical and Cognitive disabilities
Using IntelliKeys as an assistive technology for Computer Access

Thanks to IDEA ’97, students with disabilities are empowered to have access to the same general school curriculum as their able-bodied peers. IDEA ’97 requires that students with disabilities be involved in the general curriculum supported by supplementary aids, accommodations and modifications. Very powerful, but what does this look like for a student who requires adaptations for both physical and cognitive access?  How would be this be accomplished for my son?

I wondered this as we developed IEPs for my then pre-school aged son who has multiple disabilities. How would he learn to write if he can’t hold a pencil? How would he learn to decode and read when he can’t speak letter sounds?

Each year during my son’s IEP Team meetings, we review the long list of strategies and technologies that support my son’s learning. Year after year, one key piece of assistive technology we have come to rely on is IntelliKeys. IntelliKeys, Kurzweil IntelliTool’s adaptable, alternative keyboard, can be modified to accommodate not only his physical limitations but, perhaps more importantly, his cognitive abilities. While my son has the fine motor skills to press keys, the crowded, confusing layout of a regular keyboard presents too much information for him. Using an IntelliKeys overlay modified with fewer and selected choices, he is able to access writing, literacy and math activities from Classroom Suite. Now age 15, IntelliKeys continues to play a vital role in helping my son access academic and life skills curriculum both physically and cognitively.

While it would be nice if I could wrap up this post by saying that the IDEA and assistive technologies have resolved my son’s learning challenges, they haven’t. But he is able to write us letters (or more usually to his younger sister) using IntelliKeys and Classroom Suite detailing what he did at school during the week. And that sure beats hearing “um, nothing.”

Randi Sargent’s son Graham has cerebral palsy and uses assistive technologies for learning, communication and mobility. She works in product management for IntelliTools at Cambium Learning Technologies.

Source:  Karger, J., & Hitchcock, C. (2003). Access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities: a brief for parents and teachers. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. Retrieved March 2012 from…

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