They call it the “AT Lab.” AT, which stands for Assistive (or Adaptive) Technology, is a term used to describe different devices and processes used to rehabilitate people with disabilities, while guiding them down a path towards greater independence and self sufficiency. Every Wednesday from 3-5pm at the Hope Technology School in Palo Alto, a team of tech-savvy individuals gather with one common purpose – to provide hope to students through technology.
The AT Lab strives to help students develop independence, communication skills, and to make the most of their learning potential through technology. Participants can try different technological devices to find the right fit. The AT Lab is unique because it carries a variety of devices (see list below), an affordable cost, and it provides a one-on-one focus which allows each student to thrive. Additionally, parents also get an opportunity to get involved.
Some of the devices the AT Lab utilizes are:
- HP TouchSmart
- Visual Schedules
- Light Writer
- Type to Learn
- Nintendo DSi, equipped with Tap-to-Talk (check out this video tutorial to see it in action)
- Zac Browser
Erlinda Cruz, a supervisor at the AT Lab and a Vocational Education Teacher, spoke about her experiences in facilitating the learning process in this innovative environment. Cruz shared that parents find the program attractive because the staff team is flexible, understanding and patient. Parents find relief in being able to get educated about the technology that’s available without having to purchase a device that might not be a good fit.
Cruz also mentioned that some parents of children with special needs come-in with “battle wounds” due to the popular attitudes of hopelessness and unbelief that society presents them. Oftentimes parents come to the lab with their guard up, anticipating that they will need to advocate strongly for their child; many are accustomed to being told how much their child can’t do.
When asked about her team’s focus Cruz said, “everyone has a vision…you just have to unlock what’s in there.” She’s referring to her students; some participants at the AT Lab are non-verbal, looking to communicate for the first time. When Cruz was asked what motivates her to do what she does week after week for the students she said, “I believe what they have to say matters.”