September 18, 2008

Program Honors Youths for Using Adaptive Technology

By Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

Seventh-grader Jessica Salgado of Wheeling used her Dynavox talking device on Thursday to help her communicate with classmates and teachers at school.

That night, she put it to another use: to deliver her acceptance speech for her Technology Achievement Award from United Cerebral Palsy's Infinitec program.

Salgado was one of 10 students - with a range of disabilities - from the North and Northwest suburbs who were honored for their advancements using adaptive devices.

For the last 15 years, the Infinitec program has worked to deliver adaptive devices to schools, through its technology lending library, as well as offering training to teachers, and access to specialists.

"There is so much we can do," said Paul Dulle, president and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago. "With this kind of technology, it makes these kids whole, and levels the playing field with their classmates."

Among the other students recognized were Kyle Brierton of Schaumburg, Adam Detloff of Palatine, Ryan Henders of Arlington Heights and Danny Pop of Barrington.

"This is our favorite night of the year," said Peggy Childs, vice president of United Cerebral Palsy Infinitec, which now serves students in nearly 1,600 schools across Illinois.

Salgado's teachers had nominated her for the award, after seeing her progress from a shy, unsure student, to one who is eager to be involved in her classes, using her Dynavox, as well as devices to help her write.

"Jessica has become a leader rather than a follower," says her teacher, Jacqueline Ott. "She carries herself with determination and direction."

Similar stories of growth and progress played out at the dinner, as each award winner was profiled in a video clip, before the student came to the podium with their parents to accept their honor.

Guests saw how Henders, who is vision-impaired, uses a screen reader on his computer and a Braille note taker during his classes at Rolling Meadows High School, where he is a junior.

"They help me in school, taking notes in classes," Henders said. "The computer helps me with my research, and I record a lot my music on it."

Detloff, a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Palatine, practiced his acceptance speech in front of his classmates. He uses a special computer to help him complete worksheets and a microphone to help him speak in class.

"I like the computer," Detloff said. "I teach the other kids how to use it."

Brierton who has cerebral palsy, has been using his Tech Touch or "talker" for more than three years at Stevenson Elementary School in Elk Grove Village.

"It's been challenging, but it's starting to make a difference," said his mother, Kathy. "He's been able to say what he wants and what he thinks."

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