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Are you looking for a way to help that gifted child you raise or teach who has an executive function disorder? How about the one with a reading problem? Or the one with an expressive language disorder?
Joan L. Green, of the Washington, DC, area, is the go-to person for many parents, therapists, and schools who need to figure out what’s in that lengthy evaluation they’ve received about a gifted child who just isn’t achieving in one or more areas. Without the right intervention, that child could wind up in a downward spiral that affects both academic abilities and self-esteem.
Green’s specialty is the application of assistive technology (A.T.) to speech, language, literacy, and cognitive difficulties that may interfere with learning and personal growth. She is a speech and language pathologist with a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s School of Speech, who began her career in the late 1980s working with adults who had had strokes or head injuries. As computer technology improved, tools became availab
le that empowered patients to work on their own, with immediate feedback from the program. For example, Green successfully used a program meant to teach English as a second language to help her clients who suffered from aphasia, which involves problems understanding or expressing language.
With the advent of the Internet and the spread of computers into just about every household, such assistive technology became much more sophisticated, available, and affordable. Today, says Green, she has explored about 1600 applications to find the “treasures” that might help her clients — and that’s just for Apple’s iPad, which she thinks is a great tool.
The twice-exceptional children Green sees are gifted, of course, and tend to have good technical skills. That’s an advantage, because they pick up on things fast, says Green, helping avoid that downward spiral.
Most of the interventions Green offers are short-term, but she is also available for the long haul if that’s what’s needed. She fits the scope of her services to the need and to the family’s budget, and makes an effort to emphasize free or economical A.T. choices. Her goal is to empower parents, students, therapists, and other education professionals with the knowledge of cutting-edge affordable technologies. She helps people find the right tools and strategies for implementing a recommended intervention, all while making life as easy as possible for everyone involved.
Successful implementation, she says, is critical. “You can’t just give someone a product or a list of potential technology tools and expect them to be able to use them without help knowing which is best and how and when to use the technology.”
When the parents of a 2e child come to Green, she will usually receive evaluation reports containing recommendations for using assistive technology. Green’ advantage, she says, is that there are not that many people who can implement those recommendations. Her success stems from the way she can combine her knowledge of:
A typical case may start with a half-hour phone conversation between Green and the parents. The parents then make available the reports and documentation Green needs to fully understand other professionals’ appraisals of the child’s situation.
Next may come a two-hour in-person or online brainstorming session with the parents about potential ways to address the child’s needs; the parents, after all, have good insight into the child’s interests, routines, and motivation. Green may show and suggest potential assistive technology tools at this point.
Joan Green’s favorite A.T. tools include the following:
Then, in individual in-person sessions with the student, Green will help the student learn the tools needed to implement the intervention strategies. This session may take place in Joan’s office in Potomac, Maryland, or in the student’s own home or school in the greater Washington, DC area. For example, she might choose a drill-and-practice tool combined with a word retrieval tool to improve skills in spelling. Another strategy might involve a word prediction tool or text-to-speech to help improve a student’s expressive skills. The areas in which Green uses technology to improve student behavior include:
Green’s use of A.T. is not limited to interventions to accommodate a specific learning challenge. She may also implement interventions that focus on augmenting a student’s learning in a particular topic by enhancing the student’s interest and motivation. Not only does technology make the intervention fun, says Green, the right technology can also get around the I-don’t-want-to-be-different problem. Carrying around an iPad rather than a laptop for in-class accommodations, for example, is “cool.” Such interventions may play to a student’s strengths, helping to keep the student engaged in school and enhancing self-esteem.
Sometimes Green goes into the student’s classroom to observe and may have one-on-one sessions with the student’s teacher to explain the intervention and the tools used. Or, she may present to a group of teachers at school.
Green says that most parents now realize how assistive technology can help their children and expect schools to use that technology. Teachers, however, obviously face lots of demands on their time and may have trouble keeping up with the explosion in A.T. solutions. That’s where Green can help the school, perhaps by assessing the school’s technological capabilities, determining gaps in those capabilities, and suggesting alternative ways to achieve goals, like differentiated instruction, in the classroom. By projecting her iPad screen, Green can demonstrate for the staff how to use technology tools and how to find useful resources on the Internet.
Green also presents to other professionals on the topic, which she views as one way to keep up with technology — by making sure her presentation is up to date every time.
Green has written a book on assistive technology which is reviewed elsewhere in this newsletter. She also offers a free e-newsletter on the topic, featuring applications and programs with good value. Interested readers may sign up for it at www.innovativespeech.com.
Joan L. Green may be reached through her website, by e-mail at Joan@innovativespeech.com, or by phone at 301.602.2899. She Tweets under @jgreenslp.
Speech and language therapists are licensed to provide therapy on a state-by-state basis. For example, Green is licensed in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. In other states she can provide “generic” support by phone or through online brainstorming sessions. In those cases, she does not work directly with the student and does not read reports and make specific recommendations, but is able to listen to a person’s situation and share knowledge of how she has helped others with a similar set of circumstances. Using screen-sharing technology, she can show iPad apps, online programs, software, and devices as well as talk about implementation strategies that have been helpful with other students.
What if you need a speech and language therapist near you? Many speech and language pathologists belong to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ASHA. Start your search at the organization’s website, www.asha.org, and search for a professional in the U.S. or Canada. Search results will include detailed listings on the selected providers. In selecting a therapist, ask about services relating to A.T., using the information in this article as a guideline.