Summer vacation is winding down and school is almost back in session. This is a particularly busy time of year for members of the PATINS Project, which supports Indiana’s K-12 public educators in creating inclusive environments for students and providing assistive technology to meet their needs.
In addition to delivering presentations at the Indiana Department of Education’s eLearning conferences across the state, the PATINS staff is also undergoing a book study. This summer’s book is Fish in a Tree, which follows a young girl with dyslexia as she gains the confidence to stop hiding her disability and start opening herself up to the wide variety of opportunities for students like her.
This book study isn’t just about seeing the world through the eyes of characters with disabilities. PATINS uses the book as a springboard for building more inclusive classrooms throughout Indiana.
In a recent PATINS blog post, Daniel McNulty, the state director of the PATINS project, wrote, “Part of this book study includes creating education plans for characters in the book, determining potentially appropriate assistive technology for them from our Lending Library and drafting persuasive letters about the importance of accessible materials within the classrooms in the book.”
PATINS encourages Indiana educators to conduct their own studies around books about characters with disabilities. PATINS is also open to assisting teachers and schools in choosing books and developing guidelines as they begin these studies. (Educators interested in a book study can work with PATINS by submitting a training request.)
Equipping Classrooms for Inclusion
Like INDATA, PATINS has a lending library that provides assistive technology devices, software, resource materials and more to local education agencies — all at no cost.
These items are shipped directly to schools, where students and teachers can use them for six-week trial periods. This service is a significant stepping stone to helping educators overcome the financial obstacles on the path toward more inclusive, accessible learning environments.
One piece of assistive technology in PATINS’ library is particularly effective for younger students — a friendly robot named Ophi. Named after a sea creature, Ophi is a reference to “the starfish story” — a fable about how a seemingly small gesture can make a huge difference. The tale follows an old man as he walks on a beach after a storm. When he sees a boy gently throwing washed-up starfish back into the ocean, he asks him if he realizes that he can’t possibly make a difference given the many miles of beach and thousands of starfish on shore. The boy picks up one more and says, “I made a difference to that one.”
Ophi is a small creature that makes a big impact on children with disabilities, helping them come out of their shell with its kind nature.
“My name will be said by students all over the state of Indiana. It could possibly be the first word ever spoken by a student who is non-verbal,” Ophi tells viewers in its video introduction. “My name brings students with disabilities many smiles, many lessons and a lot of interaction. Together we will be social; we will learn, and we will move.” See the rest of the video here:
Since adults can seem intimidating in the eyes of children, especially those with disabilities, Ophi assists teachers in helping students open up and feel safe in their inclusive learning environment.
Praise for PATINS
PATINS is a key player in helping schools throughout the state make their classrooms more inclusive and universally designed. The organization is a great leader in the assistive technology community.
“PATINS has been a great resource and partner to us,” said Brian Norton, the director of assistive technology at Easterseals Crossroads. “They’ve delivered helpful, eye-opening presentations at our full-day training sessions, and we always heartily recommend them to schools pushing toward creating more inclusive classrooms.”
In addition to its lending library, PATINS has the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials) — a statewide online system for the acquisition of specialized textbooks and other core curriculum materials for students with disabilities.
“A large part of the reason why schools struggle to be more accessible and inclusive is a lack of access to or awareness of these resources,” Norton said. “PATINS is helping lead the way in introducing Indiana educators to this growing world of tools for young people with disabilities.”