PRIDE Technology Connections

Students Connect with Parents and Peers Using Technology
Posted on 03/08/2016
Liam Graf, student at the SWMetro PRIDE program, and Lydia Palkert, Paraprofessional at SWMetro, video chat with Robert Mancini, PRIDE teacher.

SouthWest Metro Educational Cooperative has a wide array of programs serving students with varying ability levels. In PRIDE, Preparing and Reaching Individual Dreams Everyday, students are using technology to connect with parents, peers and staff in new ways. PRIDE is an individualized program located at River Valley Education Center (RVEC) in Jordan. Students in PRIDE have disabilities, which include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD), and Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD).

Due to these disabilities, many PRIDE students have a difficult time with social communication. Despite the challenges of their disabilities, these middle school- and high school-aged students are learning to use a variety of adaptive technologies, including adapted keyboards for emailing friends, family and staff. Students are also learning to use Google Hangouts and video calling, which help them reach their goals of improving communication and social skills.

This effort has come with challenges; for example, it was difficult for some students to stay seated for the duration of a video call. To help with this, PRIDE staff placed one computer in a common area of the school and another computer in a student’s workspace. Students watched friends and staff through their computer and before long, became more comfortable with the technology. Staff members were then able to increasingly interact with students on the other end of the video call. Eventually students were able to interact through the camera to staff, and later, parents and peers. The next goal is to help these students maintain this skill into adulthood so they can continue to communicate with friends, family and potential employers.

Students who have used this technology connection since the second quarter of the 2015-2016 school year have far exceeded the expectations of their school staff and parents. PRIDE staff members look forward to making this method of communication more universal by modifying the presentation for non-verbal students. Where regular phone calls are not possible or practical for individuals who don't communicate verbally, video streaming allows for a participant to use sign language or visuals to communicate.

            This endeavor has gained a great deal of positive attention throughout RVEC and SWMetro. It has helped to build community at RVEC and has proven to be a socially enriching experience for each student involved.