ATU328 – Understood.org with Bob Cunningham and Jamie Martin | www.understood.org

Play

 

Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show notes: Understood.org with Bob Cunningham and Jamie Martin | www.understood.org

——————————
Listen 24/7 at www.AssistiveTechnologyRadio.com
If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA

——-transcript follows ——

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  Hi, this is Bob Cunningham, and I’m the in-house expert on learning and attention issues at understood.org.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Hi, this is Jamie Martin, and I’m an assistive technology expert at understood.org, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Welcome to episode number 328 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 8, 2017.

Today I spend my time with Bob Cunningham and Jamie Martin who are experts over at understood.org where they share all kinds of great information on helping people with learning and attention issues.

We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line at 317-721-7124.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: Hi, this is Bob Cunningham, and I’m the in-house expert on learning and attention issues at understood.org.
JAMIE MARTIN: Hi, this is Jamie Martin, and I’m an assistive technology expert at understood.org, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Welcome to episode number 328 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 8, 2017.
Today I spend my time with Bob Cunningham and Jamie Martin who are experts over at understood.org where they share all kinds of great information on helping people with learning and attention issues.
We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line at 317-721-7124.
***
We all know that the Internet is full of resources, all kinds of things related to disabilities and learning and attention issues. Not to mention that but also assistive technology, education. There is a ton of good information out there. However, sometimes it might be difficult to navigate some of those resources and sometimes it can be daunting or even confusing as an individual or their families are looking for resources. Recently I’ve been made aware of a thing called understood.org, which is a website and organization that is trying to clarify some of the stuff. I would like to welcome to the show Bob Cunningham who is an expert in residence on learning and attention issues at understood, as well as Jamie Martin who is an AT expert also at understood.org. Gentlemen, welcome to the show.
JAMIE MARTIN: Thanks for having us.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: Pleasure to be here.
WADE WINGLER: I’d like to hear a little bit about your personal backgrounds and stories and then I’m going to ask the same question about understood.org. Jamie, can you tell me about your background and how you got to understood?
JAMIE MARTIN: I’ve been an educator for almost 25 years, longer than I remember. I trained originally as an English teacher and spent a handful of years teaching mainstream English in a middle school classroom. Then I consider myself to be very fortunate to become involved with students with learning and attention issues, specifically students with dyslexia. For a wild, I worked at a school that specialized in educating dyslexic students. More recently I became an independent consultant, so I’ve been consulting on my own for about three years. About two years ago, Understood approached me to do some work with them. It’s one of my favorite things to do on a daily basis now. I do all kinds of things for Understood. I write articles, do webinars, Facebook chats, web chats. It’s a great opportunity for me, but I also feel really good about being able to spread really good assistive technology information to the families that need it.
WADE WINGLER: Absolutely. Bob, how about you? What’s your background?
BOB CUNNINGHAM: I’ve also been in education for about 25 years. Makes us sound old, Jamie. I started out as a high school history teacher and then went into special education because of the group of students that I worked with in my history class who just weren’t able to manage the content and read or write at the level where I would’ve expected them to based on sort of how smart I thought they were. It was the principal at that school who said these kids have learning issues, and I said wow, was that. I spent the rest of my career looking into that and thinking about it and study it. That took me to both teaching and admission of positions at both public and private schools and eventually to teach at a college level for a little bit. Then I got to run a couple of great independent schools in the New York City area, all of which focus on nontraditional learners, kids with learning and attention issues. At that point, a private family foundation reached out to me and asked me to advise them on some of their grantmaking. They are one of the groups that was partners of understood.org. I’ve been with Understood from the very beginning and even before it was an actual idea. I’m really proud of that and happy to have been able to lend my expertise and experiences to all the families of kids with learning and attention issues out there who need really good, accurate information that’s written in a way that’s very easy to understand and access. That’s what Understood is all about.
WADE WINGLER: I am clearly the new guy on the block because I just celebrated my 24th year. You have a year on me. We are all some of the old dogs here.
Bob, tell me a little bit about the importance of Understood. You hinted around that in your introduction. Tell me why that’s important. Why do we need something like understood.org and who specifically are we helping? Is it kids, adults, both?
BOB CUNNINGHAM: Understood was developed for parents with kids with learning and attention issues. The reason it’s so important that we know that one in five people have a learning or attention issue, 20 percent of the population. We know that the parents of students or kids with learning and attention issues are their best advocates and are in the best position to help them and get them through their schooling and to help them out beyond school and in life in general. That informed parent, we feel, is the best resource a child can have.
We developed Understood to focus on giving accurate information, getting complete information, and giving information that is easy to understand and get your head around to those parents who have kids with learning and attention issues.
JAMIE MARTIN: Let me just add one thing. I think it’s really important because it’s a free resource and it’s available to everyone on demand. Because it’s a website, anybody can access it at any time. Traditionally, I think the parents of kids with learning and attention issues, the ones who could get really good information were the ones who could afford it and higher psychologist or psychologist. What Understood is doing is leveling the playing field for families across all socioeconomic levels so that everybody can get quality information about learning and attention issues.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: That’s absolutely spot on. Do we have time for me to tell an anecdote about Understood getting started?
WADE WINGLER: Please do.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: Based on what Jamie said, I wanted to throw in that the family that was behind the idea for Understood came to me when I was leaving my position as the head of an independent school that specialized in kids with learning and attention issues in Manhattan. That’s what they said to me, was that we “had the privilege of having the resources to be able to access the best expertise and the best schools and the best information for our son. We want to make that possible for everybody out there on the matter where they live, no matter what they have. If they have a child with a learning or attention issue, we want them to have top-of-the-line resources available to them. We want you to come and work with us to make that happen.”
That’s one of the reasons that I jumped into this project. At that point it was called parent project. Now we know it as understood. It is entirely free. It provides a daily access to experts like me and people who know a lot more than I do who are there to interact with parents as they come to the site. It’s also available in both English and Spanish. It follows the principles of universal design for learning. It’s a UDL website which makes it very easy for parents who may have learning or attention issues themselves to access. We are very proud of that as well.
JAMIE MARTIN: Specifically along those UDL lines, there’s a built-in text to speech tool. Understood calls it reading assist. Any text content that is on the website can be read aloud with built-in text to speech in both English and Spanish. There is some really good assistive technology that is built into the website.
WADE WINGLER: I love the origin story. I love the fact that it’s free. I’m also someone who is fascinated with UDL and get a chance to teach that sometimes. I find that when people find text readers built into sites, that’s their first time experience in that. For folks to know what that is, it’s great to turn it on and use it. For others it’s like [Singing], there it is!
Tell me a little bit about the kind of content that people are going to find when they go to understood.org.
JAMIE MARTIN: Why don’t you start, Bob, and I’ll fill in.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: There is a wide ranging content on Understood. One of the great things about the content is it’s all written that the sum of the eighth grade reading level. You do not have to be an expert reader to come to the site and get benefit from the information. There are different types of content pieces. There are videos, articles, deep dive articles, info graphics, and all kinds of things you can fill out or print and fill out and tools you can use.
It’s content around what our specific learning and attention issues, things like dyslexia or ADHD. How do I interact with my child’s school? How can I be successful in communicating with my child’s teachers? Understood is very purposeful in trying to build collaborative relationships between the parents and schools that work with their children. We had a lot of good information on there about how to communicate effectively with the school and teachers. We also have information that is specifically for the parents in terms of, how do I talked to my child’s siblings about my child’s learning and attention issue? How do I talked to my spouse about my concerns about my child’s learning? How do I explain this to my in-laws? All that stuff is there. How do I take care of myself as a parent and make sure I have time for me and my other children as well?
Then we have a parent community that’s accessible. If you register with Understood, you can interact with other parents of kids with learning and attention issues. I’ve mentioned the live daily expert events on the site. Then we have a suite of tools that allows parents to interact even more with the site. There is a personalization engine, a bunch of tools that give you great experience is in great information. I’m sure we’ll get into those tools later so I won’t talk about them right now. Like I said, there is a wide range of content.
We also have content specific to special education. We have all about IP’s and evaluations and all that stuff as well. It’s important to note that Understood was specifically designed for parents of the kids who are identified as having disabilities and needing special education as well as parents of kids who are not specifically diagnosed or identified. We use that learning and attention issues purposefully to be broader than what we would say if we were talking about just learning disabilities or just ADHD. That’s how the content is laid out.
JAMIE MARTIN: Let me add a couple of things. We have a whole series of blogs. The cool thing about the blogs is parents can be contributors as well. I’ve read several blog posts recently that were written by parents which is a really good viewpoint for other parents to be reading.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: I just went over one this morning. I think that idea of expert review is also really important. All of the pieces on Understood are reviewed by one, two, or more expert on the particular topics so parents can have confidence in the accuracy and depth of information that is presented.
JAMIE MARTIN: Let me plug a brand-new feature that just might live not too long ago called the first day guide, which is kind of a creating tool where parents can plug in the age group that their child falls into, the issues that they are having in school, and the tool gives a whole list of resources that you can use to get your footing in the new school year. That’s called the first day guide, and you can ask is that right on the homepage.
WADE WINGLER: That’s great. One of the things that caught my attention when I was looking at the site was the parent toolkit. Can you tell me about that?
JAMIE MARTIN: Correct me if I’m wrong, Bob. There are three main components to the parent toolkit. The first is called reading your child’s eyes, which is kind of a simulation tool. If you’re not quite sure what your child is going through in terms of their learning and attention issues, like if you have a child with ADHD and you’re not quite sure what it’s like to sit in a classroom having ADHD with all kinds of noise and distractions around you, you can go through and use the through your child’s eyes tool to simulate what your child is experiencing. There is another one for kids with reading issues, maybe dyslexia, what it’s like to read with a serious reading issue. All that is in the simulation tool.
There’s also another one, parenting coach, which is very specific and pointed tips on how to deal with certain aspects of your child’s learning and attention issues.
Being an AT person, my favorite is called the tech finder. The tech finder is like a search engine that will give you very specific recommendations, both for educational apps and assistive technology apps that deal with specific learning and attention issues and different age groups. It’s powered by one of our founding partners, common sense media. I’m sure you have heard of them.
WADE WINGLER: Sure.
JAMIE MARTIN: All of the results from tech finder go out to the common sense media reviews of all those different tools. I think it’s a great place for parents to go if they don’t know where to start in terms of assistive technology. There’s been a huge explosion – and you know this too – and assistive technology in the last five or 10 years. It can be very overwhelming for parents who are just starting out, not knowing what tool to start with. That’s a good way to get them started. It’s called tech finder. All three of those tools you can find directly from the homepage.
WADE WINGLER: Most of the people in our audience will be interested in understood that or just because the content. Jamie, as you know, they are really going to be fascinated with some of the AT resources. As do more of a deep dive in the AT resources that they might find.
JAMIE MARTIN: The first group of content on the website for AT is the written content, articles, checklists, things like that. That content is divided into two sections. The first section is assistive technology basics. Parents who are just coming to assistive technology and are not sure what it’s all about. We have articles like dictation technology, what it is and how it works; assistive technology platforms, what you need to know; just really to understand articles and written information for parents to get going with assistive technology. There are also AT checklist. One is called what to ask colleges about assistive technology. So parents will bring their kids to colleges, what can we ask colleges to make sure you get those AT accommodations when you get on campus. That’s all in the assistive technology basics section.
Then there is another section on finding and assistive technology. What we do in that section is give parents specific recommendations for AT tools based on specific issues. We have an article called software programs for kids with writing issues. Another is called six chrome tools for kids with reading issues. Another is called 10 apps to help kids with notetaking. We make sure we keep those up-to-date because things keep changing so quickly in the AT world. We are constantly reviewing those in making sure we have the most recent and best recommendations to give and that kind of written content. Like I said earlier, all that reading content is accessible with built-in text to speech tool on the website.
In addition to the written content, we also have the tech finder, which I talked about. As we were talking about earlier, we have the daily expert chats and webinars. Probably once a month, I do a video chat where I answer parent questions. They watch online, there is a checkbox they can type in their questions, I get very specific answers for their particular needs. I had just recorded a webinar before we came on here. That’s why my voice may be a little bit scratchy.
In addition to video-based content can we also use social media as a branch off of the main website content. Periodically, I do twitter chats, #LDchats, every Wednesday at noon Eastern time. Every couple of months we do one focused on assistive technology. All of my AT friends around the country join in and we share information with the parents who are also joining that twitter chats. With the Facebook chat as well right on the Understood Facebook page where parents can ask specific questions on assistive technology and other topics as well and they can get expert answers based on their specific questions.
It’s UDL-based for parents as well because they can access the information and lots of different ways, whatever works for them.
WADE WINGLER: We are getting close on time for the interview here, but I feel like we could talk about this all afternoon. Can one of you tell me a story about somebody’s life who’s been touched by Understood?
JAMIE MARTIN: Mind will be a quick story. Mine is my own story. I have a son who is 11 years old. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was very young, to be first or second grade. He is now transitioning into middle school. I thought I knew everything there was to know about ADHD when he was diagnosed. But that was far from the truth. Once I became involved with the website, understood.org, I’m reading all the resources myself as a parent on attention issues, ADHD. I watched the video chat with Doctor Tom Brown who is an ADHD expert. I’m continually learning more information on the time about my own son and our own family dynamic because we are dealing with that in our household. For me personally, as a parent, it’s been a huge help.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: For me, one of the things I love most about understood is the feedback we get from parents. The Understood team is awesome about reading every single email that comes in, every chat that occurs. We browse through the community section to see what the parents are talking about. The feedback from parents actually continues to inform the kind of content that we produce for understood. Everyone who takes the time to get in touch with us, comment on a piece or comment on something they wish they knew, that sort of stuff we take very seriously and jump on that whenever we can to provide it to our community.
I personally get to interact with parents when I go out to do some of the community mobilization events that Understood does. I get to go to schools and neighborhoods and community centers and interact with some of our community in person. The stories that they tell are similar to what Jamie shared for him and his child, just the gratitude that they have and the way that understood has changed their lives.
I’ll tell you a funny anecdote because I know we are getting to the end of our time. I was browsing in a bookstore near where I live. There was a lady who was walking a little bit behind me. She kept looking over. I finally turned and said hi. She looked at me and said, you’re Bob from Understood, right? I said actually, yes. She said, I wouldn’t normally say anything to anyone, but your site has changed my life and life my daughter. She was having so much trouble with school. My husband and I didn’t know why. One of our friends said, “Hey, you should look at this new website.” (This was a couple of years ago so Understood was new at the time.) “You should look at this new website because I got great information from it about my child.” This mom was saying we looked at it and read it together and started looking even deeper. It was so obvious to us than that you were talking about our child and the difficulties with executive function. We never knew what executive function wise. It’s those kinds of stories that continue to motivate the entire team at Understood. That kind of impact is why we are in it. Thank you for giving us this chance to talk to you and your audience about Understood.
WADE WINGLER: Of course. It’s interesting. Normally this is the point in my interview where I asked for the address where people can learn more, but it’s understood.org. Is there anything more that we need to share?
JAMIE MARTIN: We can share one more thing. If you look at the bottom of our homepage at understood.org, you actually see the levels for the 15 not-for-profit partners that got together and started understood. They are the folks who are committed to maintaining understood as a free resource for everyone. If you look at the bottom and click on the logos, it will take you to their sites. These are all organizations that are top of their game, top of their field. You cannot go wrong going from Understood to the site of any of those 15 not-for-profit partners that you see there.
WADE WINGLER: Bob Cunningham is an expert in residence on learning and attention issues, and Jamie Martin is an AT expert at Understood. Thank you so much for being our show today.
JAMIE MARTIN: Thank you.
BOB CUNNINGHAM: We appreciate it.
WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi. For requests and inquiries, contact tjcortopassi@gmail.com***

***

We all know that the Internet is full of resources, all kinds of things related to disabilities and learning and attention issues. Not to mention that but also assistive technology, education. There is a ton of good information out there. However, sometimes it might be difficult to navigate some of those resources and sometimes it can be daunting or even confusing as an individual or their families are looking for resources. Recently I’ve been made aware of a thing called understood.org, which is a website and organization that is trying to clarify some of the stuff. I would like to welcome to the show Bob Cunningham who is an expert in residence on learning and attention issues at understood, as well as Jamie Martin who is an AT expert also at understood.org. Gentlemen, welcome to the show.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Thanks for having us.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  Pleasure to be here.

WADE WINGLER:  I’d like to hear a little bit about your personal backgrounds and stories and then I’m going to ask the same question about understood.org. Jamie, can you tell me about your background and how you got to understood?

JAMIE MARTIN:  I’ve been an educator for almost 25 years, longer than I remember. I trained originally as an English teacher and spent a handful of years teaching mainstream English in a middle school classroom. Then I consider myself to be very fortunate to become involved with students with learning and attention issues, specifically students with dyslexia. For a wild, I worked at a school that specialized in educating dyslexic students. More recently I became an independent consultant, so I’ve been consulting on my own for about three years. About two years ago, Understood approached me to do some work with them. It’s one of my favorite things to do on a daily basis now. I do all kinds of things for Understood. I write articles, do webinars, Facebook chats, web chats. It’s a great opportunity for me, but I also feel really good about being able to spread really good assistive technology information to the families that need it.

WADE WINGLER:  Absolutely. Bob, how about you?  What’s your background?

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  I’ve also been in education for about 25 years. Makes us sound old, Jamie. I started out as a high school history teacher and then went into special education because of the group of students that I worked with in my history class who just weren’t able to manage the content and read or write at the level where I would’ve expected them to based on sort of how smart I thought they were. It was the principal at that school who said these kids have learning issues, and I said wow, was that. I spent the rest of my career looking into that and thinking about it and study it. That took me to both teaching and admission of positions at both public and private schools and eventually to teach at a college level for a little bit. Then I got to run a couple of great independent schools in the New York City area, all of which focus on nontraditional learners, kids with learning and attention issues. At that point, a private family foundation reached out to me and asked me to advise them on some of their grantmaking. They are one of the groups that was partners of understood.org. I’ve been with Understood from the very beginning and even before it was an actual idea. I’m really proud of that and happy to have been able to lend my expertise and experiences to all the families of kids with learning and attention issues out there who need really good, accurate information that’s written in a way that’s very easy to understand and access. That’s what Understood is all about.

WADE WINGLER:  I am clearly the new guy on the block because I just celebrated my 24th year. You have a year on me. We are all some of the old dogs here.

Bob, tell me a little bit about the importance of Understood. You hinted around that in your introduction. Tell me why that’s important. Why do we need something like understood.org and who specifically are we helping?  Is it kids, adults, both?

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  Understood was developed for parents with kids with learning and attention issues. The reason it’s so important that we know that one in five people have a learning or attention issue, 20 percent of the population. We know that the parents of students or kids with learning and attention issues are their best advocates and are in the best position to help them and get them through their schooling and to help them out beyond school and in life in general. That informed parent, we feel, is the best resource a child can have.

We developed Understood to focus on giving accurate information, getting complete information, and giving information that is easy to understand and get your head around to those parents who have kids with learning and attention issues.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Let me just add one thing. I think it’s really important because it’s a free resource and it’s available to everyone on demand. Because it’s a website, anybody can access it at any time. Traditionally, I think the parents of kids with learning and attention issues, the ones who could get really good information were the ones who could afford it and higher psychologist or psychologist. What Understood is doing is leveling the playing field for families across all socioeconomic levels so that everybody can get quality information about learning and attention issues.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  That’s absolutely spot on. Do we have time for me to tell an anecdote about Understood getting started?

WADE WINGLER:  Please do.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  Based on what Jamie said, I wanted to throw in that the family that was behind the idea for Understood came to me when I was leaving my position as the head of an independent school that specialized in kids with learning and attention issues in Manhattan. That’s what they said to me, was that we “had the privilege of having the resources to be able to access the best expertise and the best schools and the best information for our son. We want to make that possible for everybody out there on the matter where they live, no matter what they have. If they have a child with a learning or attention issue, we want them to have top-of-the-line resources available to them. We want you to come and work with us to make that happen.”

That’s one of the reasons that I jumped into this project. At that point it was called parent project. Now we know it as understood. It is entirely free. It provides a daily access to experts like me and people who know a lot more than I do who are there to interact with parents as they come to the site. It’s also available in both English and Spanish. It follows the principles of universal design for learning. It’s a UDL website which makes it very easy for parents who may have learning or attention issues themselves to access. We are very proud of that as well.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Specifically along those UDL lines, there’s a built-in text to speech tool. Understood calls it reading assist. Any text content that is on the website can be read aloud with built-in text to speech in both English and Spanish. There is some really good assistive technology that is built into the website.

WADE WINGLER:  I love the origin story. I love the fact that it’s free. I’m also someone who is fascinated with UDL and get a chance to teach that sometimes. I find that when people find text readers built into sites, that’s their first time experience in that. For folks to know what that is, it’s great to turn it on and use it. For others it’s like [Singing], there it is!

Tell me a little bit about the kind of content that people are going to find when they go to understood.org.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Why don’t you start, Bob, and I’ll fill in.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  There is a wide ranging content on Understood. One of the great things about the content is it’s all written that the sum of the eighth grade reading level. You do not have to be an expert reader to come to the site and get benefit from the information. There are different types of content pieces. There are videos, articles, deep dive articles, info graphics, and all kinds of things you can fill out or print and fill out and tools you can use.

It’s content around what our specific learning and attention issues, things like dyslexia or ADHD. How do I interact with my child’s school?  How can I be successful in communicating with my child’s teachers?  Understood is very purposeful in trying to build collaborative relationships between the parents and schools that work with their children. We had a lot of good information on there about how to communicate effectively with the school and teachers. We also have information that is specifically for the parents in terms of, how do I talked to my child’s siblings about my child’s learning and attention issue?  How do I talked to my spouse about my concerns about my child’s learning?  How do I explain this to my in-laws?  All that stuff is there. How do I take care of myself as a parent and make sure I have time for me and my other children as well?

Then we have a parent community that’s accessible. If you register with Understood, you can interact with other parents of kids with learning and attention issues. I’ve mentioned the live daily expert events on the site. Then we have a suite of tools that allows parents to interact even more with the site. There is a personalization engine, a bunch of tools that give you great experience is in great information. I’m sure we’ll get into those tools later so I won’t talk about them right now. Like I said, there is a wide range of content.

We also have content specific to special education. We have all about IP’s and evaluations and all that stuff as well. It’s important to note that Understood was specifically designed for parents of the kids who are identified as having disabilities and needing special education as well as parents of kids who are not specifically diagnosed or identified. We use that learning and attention issues purposefully to be broader than what we would say if we were talking about just learning disabilities or just ADHD. That’s how the content is laid out.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Let me add a couple of things. We have a whole series of blogs. The cool thing about the blogs is parents can be contributors as well. I’ve read several blog posts recently that were written by parents which is a really good viewpoint for other parents to be reading.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  I just went over one this morning. I think that idea of expert review is also really important. All of the pieces on Understood are reviewed by one, two, or more expert on the particular topics so parents can have confidence in the accuracy and depth of information that is presented.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Let me plug a brand-new feature that just might live not too long ago called the first day guide, which is kind of a creating tool where parents can plug in the age group that their child falls into, the issues that they are having in school, and the tool gives a whole list of resources that you can use to get your footing in the new school year. That’s called the first day guide, and you can ask is that right on the homepage.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s great. One of the things that caught my attention when I was looking at the site was the parent toolkit. Can you tell me about that?

JAMIE MARTIN:  Correct me if I’m wrong, Bob. There are three main components to the parent toolkit. The first is called reading your child’s eyes, which is kind of a simulation tool. If you’re not quite sure what your child is going through in terms of their learning and attention issues, like if you have a child with ADHD and you’re not quite sure what it’s like to sit in a classroom having ADHD with all kinds of noise and distractions around you, you can go through and use the through your child’s eyes tool to simulate what your child is experiencing. There is another one for kids with reading issues, maybe dyslexia, what it’s like to read with a serious reading issue. All that is in the simulation tool.

There’s also another one, parenting coach, which is very specific and pointed tips on how to deal with certain aspects of your child’s learning and attention issues.

Being an AT person, my favorite is called the tech finder. The tech finder is like a search engine that will give you very specific recommendations, both for educational apps and assistive technology apps that deal with specific learning and attention issues and different age groups. It’s powered by one of our founding partners, common sense media. I’m sure you have heard of them.

WADE WINGLER:  Sure.

JAMIE MARTIN:  All of the results from tech finder go out to the common sense media reviews of all those different tools. I think it’s a great place for parents to go if they don’t know where to start in terms of assistive technology. There’s been a huge explosion – and you know this too – and assistive technology in the last five or 10 years. It can be very overwhelming for parents who are just starting out, not knowing what tool to start with. That’s a good way to get them started. It’s called tech finder. All three of those tools you can find directly from the homepage.

WADE WINGLER:  Most of the people in our audience will be interested in understood that or just because the content. Jamie, as you know, they are really going to be fascinated with some of the AT resources. As do more of a deep dive in the AT resources that they might find.

JAMIE MARTIN:  The first group of content on the website for AT is the written content, articles, checklists, things like that. That content is divided into two sections. The first section is assistive technology basics. Parents who are just coming to assistive technology and are not sure what it’s all about. We have articles like dictation technology, what it is and how it works; assistive technology platforms, what you need to know; just really to understand articles and written information for parents to get going with assistive technology. There are also AT checklist. One is called what to ask colleges about assistive technology. So parents will bring their kids to colleges, what can we ask colleges to make sure you get those AT accommodations when you get on campus. That’s all in the assistive technology basics section.

Then there is another section on finding and assistive technology. What we do in that section is give parents specific recommendations for AT tools based on specific issues. We have an article called software programs for kids with writing issues. Another is called six chrome tools for kids with reading issues. Another is called 10 apps to help kids with notetaking. We make sure we keep those up-to-date because things keep changing so quickly in the AT world. We are constantly reviewing those in making sure we have the most recent and best recommendations to give and that kind of written content. Like I said earlier, all that reading content is accessible with built-in text to speech tool on the website.

In addition to the written content, we also have the tech finder, which I talked about. As we were talking about earlier, we have the daily expert chats and webinars. Probably once a month, I do a video chat where I answer parent questions. They watch online, there is a checkbox they can type in their questions, I get very specific answers for their particular needs. I had just recorded a webinar before we came on here. That’s why my voice may be a little bit scratchy.

In addition to video-based content can we also use social media as a branch off of the main website content. Periodically, I do twitter chats, #LDchats, every Wednesday at noon Eastern time. Every couple of months we do one focused on assistive technology. All of my AT friends around the country join in and we share information with the parents who are also joining that twitter chats. With the Facebook chat as well right on the Understood Facebook page where parents can ask specific questions on assistive technology and other topics as well and they can get expert answers based on their specific questions.

It’s UDL-based for parents as well because they can access the information and lots of different ways, whatever works for them.

WADE WINGLER:  We are getting close on time for the interview here, but I feel like we could talk about this all afternoon. Can one of you tell me a story about somebody’s life who’s been touched by Understood?

JAMIE MARTIN:  Mind will be a quick story. Mine is my own story. I have a son who is 11 years old. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was very young, to be first or second grade. He is now transitioning into middle school. I thought I knew everything there was to know about ADHD when he was diagnosed. But that was far from the truth. Once I became involved with the website, understood.org, I’m reading all the resources myself as a parent on attention issues, ADHD. I watched the video chat with Doctor Tom Brown who is an ADHD expert. I’m continually learning more information on the time about my own son and our own family dynamic because we are dealing with that in our household. For me personally, as a parent, it’s been a huge help.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  For me, one of the things I love most about understood is the feedback we get from parents. The Understood team is awesome about reading every single email that comes in, every chat that occurs. We browse through the community section to see what the parents are talking about. The feedback from parents actually continues to inform the kind of content that we produce for understood. Everyone who takes the time to get in touch with us, comment on a piece or comment on something they wish they knew, that sort of stuff we take very seriously and jump on that whenever we can to provide it to our community.

I personally get to interact with parents when I go out to do some of the community mobilization events that Understood does. I get to go to schools and neighborhoods and community centers and interact with some of our community in person. The stories that they tell are similar to what Jamie shared for him and his child, just the gratitude that they have and the way that understood has changed their lives.

I’ll tell you a funny anecdote because I know we are getting to the end of our time. I was browsing in a bookstore near where I live. There was a lady who was walking a little bit behind me. She kept looking over. I finally turned and said hi. She looked at me and said, you’re Bob from Understood, right?  I said actually, yes. She said, I wouldn’t normally say anything to anyone, but your site has changed my life and life my daughter. She was having so much trouble with school. My husband and I didn’t know why. One of our friends said, “Hey, you should look at this new website.” (This was a couple of years ago so Understood was new at the time.) “You should look at this new website because I got great information from it about my child.” This mom was saying we looked at it and read it together and started looking even deeper. It was so obvious to us than that you were talking about our child and the difficulties with executive function. We never knew what executive function wise. It’s those kinds of stories that continue to motivate the entire team at Understood. That kind of impact is why we are in it. Thank you for giving us this chance to talk to you and your audience about Understood.

WADE WINGLER:  Of course. It’s interesting. Normally this is the point in my interview where I asked for the address where people can learn more, but it’s understood.org. Is there anything more that we need to share?

JAMIE MARTIN:  We can share one more thing. If you look at the bottom of our homepage at understood.org, you actually see the levels for the 15 not-for-profit partners that got together and started understood. They are the folks who are committed to maintaining understood as a free resource for everyone. If you look at the bottom and click on the logos, it will take you to their sites. These are all organizations that are top of their game, top of their field. You cannot go wrong going from Understood to the site of any of those 15 not-for-profit partners that you see there.

WADE WINGLER:  Bob Cunningham is an expert in residence on learning and attention issues, and Jamie Martin is an AT expert at Understood. Thank you so much for being our show today.

JAMIE MARTIN:  Thank you.

BOB CUNNINGHAM:  We appreciate it.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact tjcortopassi@gmail.com***