I'll Take Door Number 1

Take Door article 

For Linda Beliveau, every day at Crotched Mountain holds the potential for splendor. That’s the word she uses to describe the liberation students experience when technology opens their worlds to communication and learning.


Linda is the Assistive Technology Technician at Crotched Mountain, but describes herself as a tradesperson who constructs pathways to learning. To accomplish this, Linda collaborates closely with teachers and therapists to develop the means for students to access content, communicate and learn. “Everyone approaches the world differently. My job is to find the best technological path to learning. I think of it as collecting interests.”


Some of our students can only communicate through a raised eye-brow or blink of an eye, requiring a significant amount of interpretation on the part of the listener - which is why Linda loves technology. “It is truly objective. It frees a student to communicate specific information without the filter of a third person.” But to get there takes time, effort and the collaboration of the many disciplines within the teaching and therapeutic communities at Crotched Mountain. Linda contributes to the process by listening, observing and putting aside preconceptions. “I discern where they are now, listen to where they want to be and develop a computer-based application to facilitate the journey,” says Linda.


“Communication in an academic setting is essential to measuring progress,” explains David Kontak, director of the Assistive Technology Program. “If a student can’t demonstrate understanding, it becomes difficult to evaluate his or her level of comprehension. Linda is a magician at what she does.” The pathways are many. Linda works with students, teachers and therapists to make lessons meaningful to everyone through accessibility and content solutions. Students with autism might use a program with predictable, highly visual graphics. Some students will use a mouse; others will use a touch screen to activate program functions. Those with extreme mobility limitations can use a switch activated by a body part with the most control. “The learning styles of our students are so variable we have to think outside the box to find the just-right challenge to motivate them,” Linda points out.


Take Door article 2Student Krista Lucas, who has cerebral palsy, was accustomed to communicating through body language. “It was a method that worked pretty well for her here,” Linda notes, “but would not be effective in the world beyond Crotched Mountain. And, even here, there were limits to her learning.” Linda’s job was to develop a method of access that would enable Krista to communicate more specifically. After experimenting with a number of methods, the team hit upon an unlikely, but elegant pathway. Using a laptop computer, touch screen symbols are magnified to fill the entire screen. When the right symbol appears, Krista can touch the screen anywhere, enabling her to construct sentences.


A door was opened giving Krista the opportunity to say the things she wanted - and needed - to say. She recently used this method to create invitations to her birthday party. And according to Linda, it was a labor of love. “She worked so hard, I could see beads of sweat forming on her forehead.”


Krista’s dad, Devin Lucas, agrees. “For her entire life, Krista has been trapped in a body she has little control over, extremely limiting her communication and causing her great frustration. This technology opens up a whole new world for her, and I’m excited to see how she progresses and begins to communicate her thoughts and desires to others around her," he said. It’s clear the ability to articulate a noun, a verb and an adjective has opened up a world of independence for Krista. “Shopping. Red nail polish.” Splendor.


To learn more about assistive technology at Crotched Mountain School, contact:
Director of Admissions  
603.547.3311 ext. 1894

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One Verney Drive Greenfield, NH 03047 Tel. 603.547.3311