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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 22, 2003 - Issue 83


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The Quest for Education Excellence Through Assistive Technology at TC District

Photos and story by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer - TC District Media

Special Ed. at group tableThe quest for newer and better techniques to provide more effective, efficient student learning never stops at Tuba City District.

Each school calendar year that is planned for the TC District includes 5 full days of staff development training for the entire staff of over 500 TC District employees. These days are planned so that staffers can update, refresh and apply a hands-on approach to new education techniques for the almost 3,000 students in their care. One example of how TC District addresses it student’s needs is evident through its Special Education program.

With technology playing an increasingly important role in the lives of all persons in this country, whether in business, government and certainly in education, the impact of how "Assistive Technology" is utilized for students with disabilities has a profound effect on how each student with special needs, develops and learns.

With the passing of the Public Law 105, specific to Assistive Technology in 1998, Tuba City District is even more aware of the importance to provide both low and high tech assistance to their students with physical impairments and speech limitations.

Students who receive these specialized services are ones that fit the category of (1) Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way dimishes the right of the individual to: 1. Live independently 2. Enjoy self-determination and make choices 3. Benefit from an education 4. Pursue meaningful careers 5. Enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of the United States.

At a workshopThe TC District Special Education Department under the direction of Mrs. Kipra Burns, spent their full day of in-service in a "Make and Take" workshop, learning about low tech assistive technology tools that they could make by hand and will use in their classrooms beginning next week.

Physical Therapist and Assistive Technology Specialist, Cheryl Belitsky of Flagstaff, was a big part of the day’s training and is no stranger to this field. Belitsky has been in this area of education for over 13 years and has always had a high interest in servicing students with significant limited disabilities.

Belitsky specializes in motor activities and classroom tools that are practical, adaptable, and can be made by the classroom teacher even on a limited budget.

Many of the students that fall under the disability category have speech difficulties which makes communication tedious and frustrating for the student.

TC Special Education staffers also spent a part of the day creating "Choice Boards".

Food ChoicesThese are laminated poster board books that contain varied food items or pictures of learning activities that allow speech impaired students are able to be included in decision making where food is concerned and also allow them "choices" in integrated classroom activities. Through these kinds of low tech assistive technology tools a special needs students builds their own self esteem and feels more in control of their own environment.

AT-PT Specialist Belitsky said, "By having the teachers create and make these classroom tools, they begin to really think about the tool itself, its function. It just starts to make real practical sense and become more meaningful and useful in the classroom."

Belitsky has presented on several other Native American reservations including Shoshone, Arapaho, San Carlos Apache, as well as the Navajo reservation.

For information on Assistive technology for your special students, contact TC Special Education at 928-283-1036.

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