Assistive Technology Coaching with Education and Psychology Consultation

At Possibilities, we offer Assistive Technology Coaching to Ontario students in elementary, secondary,  and postsecondary school up to 21 years of age. Opinions vary about Assistive Technology supporting students. Some recognize the value, others dismiss the need.

Here are some questions we are often asked about Assistive Technology Coaching at Possibilities, and about Assistive Technology in general, along with our responses.

Assistive Technology can be incredibly helpful for students with specific challengesbut not if the technology is inaccessible, not used consistently, or not used at all. Some students shy away from technology that can support them for several reasons: not knowing how to use it, not recognizing the benefits, and not wanting to appear different from other students. These are just a few barriers we hear about. With Assistive Technology Coaching we offer students one-to-one coaching support around the use of Assistive Technology programs, extensions, applications, and devices. We work with students to dispel myths, increase the ease of using various options, and show the benefits of hard work combined with devices and technology that can leverage strengths.

Currently this service is offered by a Teacher-Psychologist Team. The Teacher is an experienced educatoras well as the Director of Academic Services at Possibilitieswho has worked in various school settings supporting students with unique learning needs. From psychology, a Neuropsychologist with experience in ADD/ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Dyslexia provides consultation to the Teacher in this process. The Teacher on the team works directly with students to provide one-to-one Assistive Technology Coaching. Given the addition of Psychology Consultation in this offering, this service falls under our Psychology Services. Please note that the added Psychology Consultation is only available to students 21 years and younger who reside in Ontario. Please check with your insurance provider to determine if interventions involving a psychologist or licensed teacher qualify for coverage.

Our goals are both over-arching and specific. Overall, R.A.I.S.E. is the spirit and the acronym that guides us. When students are given effective tools to leverage strengths and work around challenges, we raise hope, strengths, possibilities, and outcomes. As an acronym, we recognize that effective tools can help students:

Remove Barriers 
Access curriculum content and information
Increase independence 
Support self-esteem and 
Empower strengths by addressing challenges

First and foremost, your child’s needs will direct our coaching and problem-solving around Assistive Technology options. We’ll target specific skills that require support and determine how Assistive Technology can be leveraged to address challenges and support strengths. Some skill areas that we help support through Assistive Technology are:

Brainstorming and Planning
Organization
Research skills
Studying and Note Taking
Reading
Writing

Yes! It’s tough to learn new systems and processes in a vacuum. Our coaches can guide your child through specific assignments using Assistive Technology devices and platforms. If your child is motivated to complete homework efficiently and effectivelyand Assistive Technology helps achieve that goal–then momentum can grow and misunderstandings can change, helping make this technology a go-to tool moving forward.

Yes! Students who work with us often have attention, fine-motor, and/or learning challenges that make working through tasks very challenging. There are many Assistive Technology options–so many that it can feel overwhelming and confusing when it comes to choosing ones that will be most effective. In Assistive Technology Coaching, we consider the nature of your child’s difficulty, consider the options available to help leverage strengths and support challenges, and help your child learn to implement the most helpful Assistive Technology strategies and solutions.

Assistive Technology is any device, piece of equipment, software program, or system that helps students accomplish two central goals: 1) work around specific learning or physical challenges to meet expectations and deadlines, and 2) access information, like curriculum content, in order to gain knowledge and improve skills.

Yes, for some students Assistive Technology is necessary. Students with fine motor, attention, and learning differences–to name just a few factors that can impact how information is accessed and learning is expressed–can benefit from Assistive Technology. Have you heard of the term, “strengths based”? It means leveraging an individual’s strengths to support success. Challenges limit success by blocking strengths or making them incredibly hard to express. A student with rich vocabulary may tell wonderful stories, but if holding a pencil and printing are hard, what ends up on paper will be far less detailed than a spoken narrative. In this case, speaking into a computer that changes spoken words into typewritten text would be an excellent accommodation to support written composition skills. So if the goal is to leverage strengths–an important goal for all of us at any age–then yes, Assistive Technology is necessary for students whose needs require it.

Let’s think about this question differently. Eyeglasses are an essential accommodation for children who struggle to see. Glasses don’t make seeing easier; they make seeing possible! Assistive Technology makes it possible for your child to tackle expectations by leveraging every strength available. Giving up is more likely to happen when work is much harder than it has to be. Working smarter–by considering obstacles and how best to address them–can help your child persist for longer, and use strengths to achieve success.

No, not in our opinion as clinicians and educators. Some students need Assistive Technology and some don’t. So if students are denied glassesor any other essential device that allows them to leverage their abilities to think and learn like their peers–then inequalities are being maintained, magnified, and multiplied. That is unfair from our perspective. Some students need glasses, some don’t. The same reasoning applies to Assistive Technology.

Great question. It’s an accommodation. Schools use the terms “accommodation” and “modification” to mean two different things. An accommodation is a strategy, or device, or program, that allows a student to continue working at grade level when the accommodation is being implemented. A modification is a change in grade-level expectations, typically to a lower level. So instead of working on Grade 5 level work, a Grade 5 student who is struggling may spend time working on Grade 4 level work, and be graded at that lower level, too.

Yes, absolutely in our opinion. Before knocking down work expectations when a student is struggling, we strongly recommend that Assistive Technology be tried to support grade-level work. If a student knows how to use the appropriate Assistive Technology and is using it consistently and effectively, but work is still too challenging to achieve goals, then modifications may be necessary.

Yes! Assistive Technology can be used to complete work at home if your child has the devices to support it. School personnel may also be able to share some programs for home-use with you, depending on the software licenses each school maintains. In some cases, schools may allow students to take home school-assigned laptops so work done at school can be finished at home if necessary. Check with your child’s school to see what equipment and programs may be available to you.

Good question. And it’s not a straight-forward one to answer. Yes, certainly some skills could get stronger with practice when challenges are supported systematically by Assistive Technology. For example, if speaking into a computer with speech-to-text technology removes the burden of holding a pencil from a child with weak fine-motor skills, then more time and energy can be devoted to composing great stories and essays through spoken words. But working around challenges cannot strengthen all kinds of skills, especially those that need very specific intervention to improve, like dyslexia.

With Assistive Technology, a computer can read text out loud to your child as your child listens. Highlights on the screen can also indicate which word is being read out loud by the computer so your child can follow along. This kind of technology can be game-changing for children with significant reading challenges. Students who struggle to read will definitely struggle to learn if they can’t access printed information on a page. Students who read slowly can also benefit if they can follow and understand language at a much faster rate when listening versus reading. But this kind of technology won’t change a child’s brain circuits for reading if sounding out is the key problem. In this case, we recommend using Assistive Technology so information can be accessed efficiently. But we also recommend trying to boost reading skills by changing brain circuits for sounding out words (a skill called decoding) with an evidence-based treatment like what we offer with Rewire 4 Reading.

This service is offered by a Teacher-Psychologist Team at the Clinic. A complete package, at a cost of $720, includes the following components:

  1. Parent Meeting with the Teacher/Director of Academic Services: A 30-minute meeting with a parent and the Director of Academic Serviceswho is also a certified Teacher who provides the coachinghappens at the very start to determine concerns and needs. Following the meeting, parents will receive a report outlining the goals and technology that will be used during the upcoming sessions.
  2. Teacher Consultation with the Psychologist: In setting the plan for coaching, the Teacher and Psychologist consult collaboratively to optimize programming for the student. This Psychology Consultation is available to students 21 years and younger who reside in Ontario. Your insurance provider, if applicable, may cover some cost of services if a licensed Psychologist or certified Teacher is involved.
  3. Three Coaching Sessions with the Teacher: Three one-to-one 50-minute Assistive Technology coaching sessions with a qualified Teacher are also offered in the package. Following each session, parents will receive a written summary outlining the focus of the session and what technology was used.

Yes, you can definitely add 3-session blocks to support your child’s continued work completion with Assistive Technology. The Teacher-Psychologist Team will continue to consult with each other collaboratively to optimize your child’s programming.

For more information about Assistive Technology Coaching, please contact us at info@possibilitiesclinic.com or call 1-833-482-5558. You can also get started right away by completing our Child and Adolescent Intake Form. Once this form is received, our Care Coordinator will review your needs, match you to an appropriate instructor, and get back to you with booking options.

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