Assistive Technology Helps Kids with Learning Disabilities – An Interview with Andrea Prupas

I had never heard of “assistive technology” until Andrea Prupas reached out and introduced herself to NextMontreal. I looked at Andrea’s site and company, inov8 Educational Consulting and was particularly intrigued by the references there to mobile devices (including iPads). I’ve seen my own kids use an iPad and it’s an incredible experience; they instinctively get it and can dive into all kinds of apps within seconds. So it makes complete sense to me that iPads and similar touchscreen, handheld devices could be used to help children with learning disabilities. And the possibilities are quite amazing.

One of our goals with NextMontreal is to introduce everyone to a broader spectrum of technology and how it can be used. We said from the beginning, “This isn’t just about web and mobile startups.” So Andrea’s story and experience is interesting – although not a technologist, she’s actively using technology in her business, and doing so in unique ways. It’s a story worth sharing.

NextMontreal: What is assistive technology?

Andrea Prupas: Assistive technology is a broad term for any device that helps an individual bypass the challenges associated with their disability. There are multiple categories of assistive technology, designed for different populations and different purposes. The assistive technology that inov8 Educational Consulting uses can be divided into two categories: “learning and educational aids” and “augmentative communication aids.” Learning and educational aids are specifically designed to help an individual actively engage in the learning process and overcome academic difficulties. Augmentative communication aids are technologies that provide individuals with an alternative method of understanding or communicating language.

Assistive technologies must meet the specific needs of an individual that requires it, and not the other way around. Our key guiding principle with assistive technology recommendations is: person first, technology second.

NextMontreal: What does inov8 Educational Consulting do?

Andrea: inov8 Educational Consulting works with families and their children with special needs, to use assistive technology tools to educate and empower. We help these families to provide the most effective learning environment for their child. We are highly specialized and work with children with diverse learning needs. Many of our clients are children with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, language disorders and developmental delays.

We offer two types of specialized services. Our parent seminar series, called “succeed@school” is designed to inform families about specific hardware and software available in the area of special education (for example, using an iPod as a communication device or using a specialized piece of software to develop math skills). Our other service is private consultations for families. We will work one-on-one with the family and child, integrating the software/hardware into the school curriculum or into their home environment (for example, we will show the student how to produce an essay with the use of the software, or we will show the family how to customize a communication app to suit their child’s home environment).

Above all, we always take a pedagogical, personalized approach to the use of technology. The most well-designed, innovative tool might not be well suited to the needs of a specific child. That’s why it’s critical to perform a comprehensive assessment to determine which tools would be most effective.

We are proud to say that we are a consulting company specializing in mobile and portable devices such as the iPod Touch and iPad as well as standard computers. We will customize a package on these products for an individual child, based on his or her needs. These applications are research-driven, highly interactive, powerful, mobile and effective; and they can have a significant impact on learning for students with special needs.

For more information about Assistive Technology. Click here.

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