MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — For years and years, there existed a group of students at Martinsburg High School who were confined from freely communicating. Expression of their needs and wants was restricted to large, awkward assistive technology devices or pointing to pictures.
But the barrier was broken this year when Trisha Palmer, speech language pathologist for Berkeley County Schools, applied for a grant that supplied each non-verbal student with an iPad.
Now using Apple’s touch-screen tablet, suddenly non-verbal students have a voice.
The $4,000 grant from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation, drawn from the Berkeley County Education Grants Program, was approved in May. At the school year’s start, in addition to durable cases and various applications, the grant provided seven iPads for MHS’s special needs with multiple disabilities class, which is comprised of seven non-verbal students.
Non-verbal students, Palmer said, are restricted by their cognitive abilities, which limit the retention of information, and gross motor deficits that prevent the students from being able to use sign language.
“There was a need, especially with this population,” Palmer said. “Once the students get to high school, if they’re essentially non-verbal, it seems we need to find another avenue for communication. Speech just hasn’t developed at that point, for whatever reason.
“It’s been wonderful. Their attention to task has increased. Their interest has increased. They’re more motivated,” she said. “Basically, communication for them is all about wants and needs and making those needs met. And they’ve never had a way to communicate that before.”