KITE: Young Children and Technology, PACER Center, Minneapolis, Minn, 1997, 14 minutes, $35.00 purchase, $10.00 rental.
Young Children and Technology was developed by the PACER Center in Minneapolis, Minn through the KITE (Kids Included through Technology are Enriched) project. KITE is a federally funded project created to train parents, early childhood professionals, and other caregivers on assistive technology (AT) and how it can benefit children with disabilities in the home and preschool setting. This video meets this purpose visually. The creators accomplished this through demonstration of AT devices, training in selecting appropriate AT devices and services for a specific child, and explaining how to incorporate AT into an Individual Family Service Program (IFSP) and an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
A father of a child with disabilities is the narrator. He is not introduced, but he adds his personal experience to the information he presents. The video also includes testimonials by educators and parents, making it more relevant to the audience. Another man provides expert and professional instruction; however, he is not introduced either. It is difficult to determine if he is a professional spokesman or speaking from his own experience.
In the video, frequently asked questions (FAQs) are used to introduce information. The first question presented is ‘How do I know if AT will help my child?‘ The narrator explains to the audience that the parent/caregiver/educator is the best advocate for a child. He encourages the audience to obtain as much information as possible about AT. This will ensure the best choices are made and awareness of rights.
‘What are AT devices and AT services?‘ This is the next question presented and leads into definitions of AT devices and AT services. The narrator explains that AT devices are ‘things‘ and AT services are what people ‘do‘. Examples of devices are software, computer adaptations, switches, and communication boards. The services include assessing the child, determining the needs, purchasing and providing equipment, and training parents and providers.
Among the FAQ’s, the video also outlines five areas of life in which AT may promote inclusion for children with disabilities and may benefit them in the educational setting. Those five areas are communication, education/learning, social interaction, independence, and self-expression.
To promote communication in a child, different types of communication boards may be used. They are useful for children who are non-verbal. There are high end and simple boards to meet the diversity of needs in different children. Communication boards encourage repetition, which also may increase learning. An example is given of a child with a physical disability who is intelligent, but it’s difficult for her to communicate the typical way many others do. With her communication board she is able to make her wants and needs known and to participate with others.
AT may also be used to educate and promote learning. The narrator explains that a child is able to learn social skills and sharing with AT. If included with other classmates by participating in typical activities, the child is able to learn these social skills by being a part of society. Learning styles are child specific. Providing a device specific to learners that are auditory, visual, or a tactile could enhance the knowledge they obtain. This freedom and encouragement that children acquire from AT will empower them as they gain independence to pursue more avenues of information.
As stated before, AT provides social interaction. The video highlights this point with testimonies from parents and educators. They give examples of children who are more accepted because they are able to play the games in which their peers participate. As this is demonstrated in the video, the narrator expands on how this creates independence for a child with disabilities. Along with independence, the child will feel able and gain new ways of self-expression.
The narrator closes the video by answering the question, ‘What steps do I take?‘ He outlines the steps for accessing AT: request an AT assessment, then explore the options, choose the best option based on the child’s specific needs, and then document this in an IEP. Through the IDEA, a child who qualifies for services and, if stated within the IEP, has the right to receive AT at no cost to the family.
The creators of the video do not identify the specialties of the professionals in the video. They limit the devices described to those based in school instead of including the home or other environments. Mobility devices are not included in AT category in this video.
Despite these limitations, I recommend this video because it provides a service in an area of need. Many parents and professionals are not properly trained or do not know where to obtain the training in the use of AT devices and services. It addresses the concerns of most parents for their children—friends, self-esteem, learning, and independence for their child. The video is short, easy to understand, and very personal while conveying important information. I recommend this video to pediatric clinics, hospitals, and for occupational and physical therapists to share with their clients. Early intervention and special education programs also should consider this video as a beginning step for educators and parents learning about AT.