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Florence 1 Schools employees present at national conferences

Two Florence 1 Schools employees will be making presentations during national Assistive Technology conferences, both held virtually due to COVID-19.

Rachell Johnson and Kami Smith, Assistive Technology Team Leads in Florence 1, will be presenting during the National Assistive Technology Conference, this year titled Closing the Gap. This conference attracts attendees from around the world each year. Johnson and Smith will jointly give a presentation called Ethics: A Multi-Disciplinary View, exploring ethical decision making for multidisciplinary teams.

Johnson said she became interested in Assistive Technology when she started working as a Speech Language Pathologist.

“I worked for Marion District 1 and Horry County Schools and had students on my caseload who used Assistive Technology, so I wanted to know more about it and I wanted to help them get their devices quicker,” Johnson said. “Research shows the earlier someone can get a device, the more language they can acquire and they can become a better communicator all around. This got me motivated and interested in other areas of assistive technology.”

Aside from the presentation with Smith, Johnson will also take part in discussion panels and present on other AT topics, including DIY (Do It Yourself) Assistive Technology during eLearning. While she had previously presented on DIY Assistive Technology, Johnson said that closures and changes due to COVID-19 presented an opportunity to revitalize the topic and DIY suggestions.

“I felt like with COVID-19 this presentation needed to be updated because there are simple solutions that we can make and use during eLearning that can save time and money,” Johnson said. “Some AT devices can be quite expensive, have long delivery wait times and break easily. For example, when students cannot access a traditional computer mouse physically, our AT program has been able to provide a wireless switch for the classroom. This is a round button that connects to the computer or smart screen display wirelessly that the student can tap on to operate a mouse click for a cause and effect activity or to turn pages of an onscreen book. How can F1S help parents provide the same experience of success and participation at home during virtual learning and virtual therapy services?”

Johnson said that she saw an idea for using several everyday items that would serve the same purpose as the switch.

“I saw a picture online where they had taken a ziplock container and a wireless mouse, Velcro and a sponge to create an accessible wireless mouse. They put the sponge on the lid of the container, the student’s hand resting on it, and the sponge would active the wireless mouse,” Johnson said. “You have something that you paid less than $12 for and it worked as well as the $300 device. I bought a mouse off of Amazon and just used the box it came in and it worked. If we have a time that we are shut down again, we have something that the district can make very inexpensively.”

Closing the Gap on-demand video presentations will be available from Oct. 28th – Nov. 11th. 

The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) annual conference will take place Jan. 25th- Feb. 4th. Johnson and Smith will participate in a live discussion panel on the subject of DIY Assistive Technology.

On top of the two district employees presenting, Erika Chapman, Parent Liason for the F1S Programs for Exceptional Children, was awarded a $500 scholarship to attend the Closing the Gap conference for professional development.