Delaware News

'Library' lets teachers test aids for special-needs kids

Lending library will be funded by $70K grant

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Equipment needs for disabled students range from something as simple as a highlighter to a complex augmented-speech device.

The Community Foundation of Delaware County has provided a $70,000 grant to the Delaware City School District to lend a hand with these needs.

One of the projects is to create an assistive equipment lending library that will enable teachers to try out different pieces of equipment to see which item is necessary for their students with special needs.

Jenny Cardwell, district director of secondary special education, said teachers are not always sure which piece of equipment is going to work for a particular student.

Due to this uncertainty, teachers may purchase expensive pieces of equipment that turn out to be unneeded.

"Sometimes we do a lot of guessing and it can be a hit or miss," Cardwell said. "The value of the library would provide teachers with much more assurance of what their student needs before having to purchase it."

A team of teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and administrators is working to come up with an inventory of what the schools already own and what type of equipment they should have in the library.

Some of the items in the library could include tablet computers, communication software, boards, visual signaling devices and colored overlays for worksheets to make them easier to read.

Cardwell said many people don't know the broad range of equipment and items that students with disabilities need in order to succeed in the classroom.

"Some students need rubber seats that help them sit up straight because they lack the muscle strength to hold themselves up," she said.

"Some students need special devices that help them communicate with other students. There is a whole range of items."

Fourteen percent of the district's student population has been identified as having special needs. Of that 14 percent, 50 percent of them require special-education technology.

Even some students who have not been identified having special needs still benefit from the various items, she said.

"We would not have this opportunity if it weren't for this grant money," she said. "This allows us to try out different items with students and not have to take it away from another student who is currently using it in order to test it on another student. That is one of the many reasons a library is so important."

The library will be housed in the district's technology center, where there is plenty of space and is easily accessible to teachers in the district.

Cardwell said the library is extremely valuable to the district, especially since it will help teachers better assist their students.

"Sometimes the most expensive devices are not the best for our students," she said. "It would be a waste of money to purchase it without knowing for sure.

"This will help us choose the most cost-effective, more-natural and least-intrusive devices to help our students learn."

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