Schuylkill IU 29: Team Effort Expands a Student's Horizons

On a cold December day, Brent Beach used a laptop to work on a writing assignment. For most students, this would hardly be breaking news, but in Brent’s case, a large collaborative team from Schuylkill Intermediate Unit #29 rallied behind him and made it happen.

It started with a power wheelchair. Children like Brent who have Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita have difficulty moving their joints, and doctors thought that Brent couldn’t drive a power wheelchair. His IU 29 Physical Therapy Department therapists thought otherwise. Using a donated wheelchair, they worked on Brent’s skills and convinced his doctors to prescribe his own power wheelchair.

Using an iPad was the next challenge. Brent had tried using his nose to make selections in his favorite apps, but the process was cumbersome. Since he had learned to drive a power wheelchair, couldn’t he use a mouse to access a computer for doing his schoolwork? Now, the IU 29 Technology Department was called in to develop trials with a regular mouse and a trackball mouse. Soon, the Assistive Technology Department was researching additional options. 

A new thought surfaced. Could Brent use his wheelchair toggle as a mouse? IU staff brought in representatives from two mobility equipment companies, and soon, the growing team realized that Brent’s computer wasn’t capable of making Bluetooth connections. Finally, the last member joined the team, when Brent’s home school district acquired a new laptop with integrated Bluetooth technology. 

This process took at least three years before that December day in 2016 when Brent typed a note on his laptop with minimal assistance from his special education teacher. In the end, it was all about helping a student gain independent participation skills and not giving up until the goal was reached.

“I was excited to get my new computer,” Brent says today. “I use it to do my school work. It is fun!” 

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