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Calls to Action

Inclusion + Technology = HOPE

This is a guest blog post from Marc Sirkin, Autism Speaks VP Social Marketing and Online Fundraising.

There is a school on the San Francisco Peninsula in  Palo Alto, CA that is working on an equation of some distinction and a new one for our kids to study and learn; inclusion + technology = hope.  As one of the few fully inclusive K-8 schools in the country, the Hope Technology School is breaking barriers down between neurotypical and developmentally challenged students, and are at the same time pioneering the use of new technologies to drive academic excellence.

I visited the school on a bright, sunny day and had a terrific tour from Morgan Brown, program manager; Gail Ewell, executive director; and Howard Kiyuna, middle school teacher who walked with me answering questions and explaining how their school operates. Their notion of true inclusion seems awesome to me – it’s such a progressive concept. I learned of only a few other schools with this approach, but hopefully we will see more efforts at inclusion in both private and public schools.

”Students with special needs experience being a valued member of the classroom community and gain social opportunities  that aren't otherwise available in non-inclusive settings. In addition typically developing students gain strengths such as confidence, compassion and citizenship." – Gail Ewell, Hope Technology School

As for the second part of the hope equation; technology plays a huge role at school because they believe that “every student has a voice that should be heard.” Their belief that technology can help those with autism “unlock” their voices is a powerful concept. Morgan sent me an article about this school that included this powerful story.

"One young student who has autism and is nonverbal described being trapped inside his body. When he learned to use technology to express himself, he wrote that he felt like a bird freed from a cage because he had found his voice. His story inspired the Hacking Autism Initiative as well as the recently released documentary short I Want to Say.”

Technology is a key component to the school’s inclusiveness, bringing students together to help each other attain their goals. It levels the playing field with disabled students in unique ways through collaboration, game playing and unique applications. For more information on their technology, you can download their Assistive Technology Manual here.

”Our primary goal is to leverage technology to assist individuals with communication. We’ve learned that many of our students are capable of much more than they can express. And so we strive to equip our students with tools that will help them to communicate in order to achieve their highest potential.” – Gail Ewell, Hope Technology School

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the school, meet some of the students and faculty and to learn more about the amazing work the Hope Technology School is doing to improve our world.

Be sure to check out Autism Speaks school resources including the Back to School IEP Tool Kit and the School Community Tool Kit.

What efforts your schools have taken to encourage inclusiveness and to pioneer the use of technology. Leave your thoughts below and let us know!