District: Highland Park Jr. High • Location: Highland Park, MN
Leaders: Barb Wollak, M.S., CCC-SLP
Joey, a teen with autism, didn’t have verbal skills until he started to use assistive technologies at his school. Hear his transformation thanks to his teacher, Mrs. Barbara Wollak and the use of Co:Writer, a word prediction writing tool.
Mrs. Wollak is featured in this video with her student Joey, age 15, who is diagnosed with autism. Mrs. Wollak said, “Many students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have visual memory as their strength. Last year Joey could read some sight words but had not learned how to decode unfamiliar words. He had difficulty comprehending what he read and wanted to copy text instead of writing for himself, which involves transferring his thoughts from his head to paper.”
Joey had difficulty answering and asking questions. Mrs. Wollak started him with Clicker, a picture supported word processor, to teach him the idea of writing instead of copying. She quickly moved him to Co:Writer, a word prediction assistive technology program that supports writing activity in anything written in a word processing application, such as an electronic greeting card or email. “Co:Writer works great in our Internet browser, which was critical for our e-Pals program,” continued Mrs. Wollak. “The speech feedback gives Joey the reinforcement he needs to self-select words and independently edit what he has written.”
Joey’s mother, Mrs. Veronica (Ronnie) Getter, said, “Mrs. Wollak has created a wonderful program for my son. At home, we see a new, happier kid! I didn’t think it would work, but it did. For Joey’s first semester, he wrote three-word prompted responses. After interacting with his e-PAL and using Co:Writer, he now writes a paragraph showing action, desire, emotion and reflection. His vocabulary is expanding and his ability to communicate is rapidly growing. He is becoming very social and tells me jokes. This experience has helped him gain self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. When we address the individual needs of a child, we see them rise, beyond our expectations. That’s what Mrs. Wollak has done for my son! I hope more educators and families will follow this great example of using new technologies and strategies to engage students who need extra support.”