Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Voted out of kindergarten?

There was a collective shudder in the hearts of parents of special needs children felt across our country a few weeks ago when a Florida school teacher had her special needs student stand in front of his classmates while she asked her young students to vote whether they wanted to have this classmate kicked out of the class. These impressionable children voted according to their perception of their teacher's guidance, and they sent this young child packing.

The Christian Science Monitor published another parent's perspective on this tragic story

Recently, a Florida teacher seeking relief from a challenging special-needs student named Alex Barton did the unthinkable: She stood him before his kindergarten peers and encouraged them to say what they didn't like about his behavior. Then she asked the students if they wanted him back in class after his reportedly disruptive actions earlier that day. By a vote of 14 to 2, they booted him.

Alex's mom was understandably outraged; she plans to sue. The resulting media sound and fury has brought to light the quiet revolution in public schools across America: the placing of special-needs students into regular classrooms.

Federal law holds that children with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate public education." But free for whom? Not for the taxpayers, who must foot the bill for the testing, evaluation, special therapy, and classroom support needed by the differently-abled students, who are increasingly popping up in classrooms.

That has parents everywhere asking themselves an uncomfortable yet critical question: Does the practice of inclusion detract from my child's education? Is it really worth it?

It all depends on your point of view. Mine has changed in the past 30 years, a result of having raised two generations of children – and seeing some unexpected benefits from having my son Jonny, who has Down syndrome, enrolled in regular school.

My oldest went to school when "special ed" kids were housed in trailers behind the school. That was a step up from the days when they were institutionalized, but the segregation still emphasized their differences.

But true to our country's melting pot idealism – in which the public schools are traditionally called on to do the stirring – special-needs students were soon included in the mix. It was a welcome change, but it created individual challenges that had to be confronted and hammered out between parents and educators on a case-by-case basis.
Everyone in the community loses when an individual or family is excluded. The question, whether in schools, neighborhoods, or the workplace, needs to be "how" we will include everyone within a community with dignity, not "whether."

Teachers need extra support as well as administrative and community leadership to assist ALL of our young people to grow up to be caring and productive citizens. Community leaders working on school boards cannot do their job if the schools fail to provide them with the information about all of the available tools. While special education can be expensive, it is far less costly than ignorance. We cannot afford to lose any community member because he or she learns differently than the "norm."

Utilizing currently available technology provided by a professional trained in research and clinical methodology can bring out peak performance within communities, including in schools.

For information regarding technology for peak performance as well as classes and advocacy to assure everyone's success, please visit my website at

Monday, June 16, 2008

What is a Kludge?

I came across a new (for me) word today: kludge.

(pronounced klooj) n. Slang
  1. A system, especially a computer system, that is constituted of poorly matched elements or of elements originally intended for other applications.
  2. A clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem.

kludge. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved June 16, 2008, from website:

I immediately started thinking about access technology (assistive technology) for those who have difficulty with reading or writing. These solutions are often awkward, inelegant, and inefficient, but nevertheless compensate for inaccessible curricula in schools and elsewhere.

According to Wikipedia, a kludge is a kind of "workaround" which they define as

...a bypass of a recognized problem in a system. A workaround is typically a temporary fix that implies that a genuine solution to the problem is needed. Frequently workarounds are as creative as true solutions, involving outside the box thinking in their creation.

Typically they are considered brittle in that they will not respond well to further pressure from a system beyond the original design. In implementing a workaround it is important to flag the change so as to later implement a proper solution.

It is important that those of us who work to provide "kludges" to provide accommodated access to inclusive settings to note Wikipedia's warning that these workarounds are supposed to be temporary and should be replaced by more robust solutions that specifically address the needs. Universal design not only addresses the needs, but it provides better access for everyone as well as logical social acceptance of the access solutions that allows everyone a level playing field. An example? Curb cuts and ramps at corners and for buildings not only allows access by wheelchairs, but allows baby strollers and rolling luggage carts easy access. Audio books (text to speech) for those who struggle with written text allows those individuals who are driving across town or across the country to read books while performing a routine task.

Bonus word thoughts for the day: If you investigate kludge on Wikipedia, then click on workaround, then click on outside the box, then click on lateral thinking, perhaps you can become inspired to make real, meaningful changes to including those who have challenges to "normal" abilities.

Do you need assistance in finding ways to access your school, workplace, and/or home? Please visit my website at and I'll share proven methods for success.