In September 2018, the CACEASF donated $500 in funding to Shawnee Middle School to purchase two Chromebooks that will supply students with special needs the assistive technology they need in order to complete written assignments. Many students with fine motor skill challenges and Dysgraphia, a specific learning disability that causes trouble with written expression, find the writing process much harder and slower. Children with Dysgraphia experience difficulty in six areas: visual-spatial, fine motor, language processing, spelling/handwriting, grammar, and organization of language. Writing requires not only a complex set of fine motor skills, but also language processing skills, similar to those needed for learning to read. Without early intervention, school accommodations, structured teaching, and assistive technology solutions, a child with dysgraphia becomes increasingly at risk academically and emotionally. Children with writing disabilities may fall behind one or many grade levels in school and ultimately spiral deeper each year into an abys of frustration, sadness, and isolation. This is unnecessary as structured teaching approaches can be made available to teach children with writing disabilities as well as assistive technology tools and software to mitigate, and even provide a solution to address these challenges and emotional distress. Unfortunately, many children are not identified with these challenges in our public school systems and early interventions not provided until it is too late, or ever unless the child has been provided an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. Assistive technology is a proven intervention shown to improve academic and social outcomes for children with writing disabilities and the CACEASF is grateful for the courage and leadership that Shawnee Middle School demonstrates in providing assistive technology services for its students.
These interventions are critical in closing the reading gap in America and Celia or Mrs. “C” would be extremely happy that her hometown middle school proactively seeks solutions to help students in need. The CACEASF tracks public school system data in Oklahoma and Maryland related to the achievement of children with disabilities on standardized assessments. The achievement gap for children with disabilities is clearly significant and even more so for minorities and children from low income households. Racial and economic disparities are notable as compared to all children, as well as those with disabilities. The CACEASF is also fully aware that illiteracy among the prison population is overwhelming. Therefore, again, early intervention is not only critical to individual student success, but also to that of a community, where individual educational achievement is the single most important factor affecting economic and societal outcomes.