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Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology (NEAT)

Author: 
By Pam Brown*

Reprinted with permission from the What's Up, Volume 16, Number 3. What's Up is published by the Early Childhood Training Center in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Education.

Assistive technology refers to a range of devices that support children's participation and success in play, communication, learning, development or any life activity. For example, a child may need a modified spoon to more successfully feed himself. Other examples might include supports for sitting, switches on toys, knobs on puzzles to make them easier to manipulate, toys with high color contrasts or simple communication devices. Assistive technology can be "low tech" (such as a large knob glued onto a toy box to enable a child to more easily open it) or "high tech" (such as aids for hearing).

Some people have the mistaken idea that assistive technology is a prop that impedes children's skill development. Actually, the reverse is true. When assistive technologies are appropriately used, they support children's development of skills and independence in such areas as communication, socialization, play, mobility, and self-help.

Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology (NEAT) is a statewide service that provides onsite consultations, training and other resources to support the appropriate use of assistive technology devices. Consultants are available by telephone, e-mail or even through visits to your community.

Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology services are available upon request, at no cost, to assist in identifying services, devices and resources for children with disabilities, from birth-21. Call (308) 784-4525 to find the consultant nearest you.

The network's services are available to educators, agencies, youth, families and providers working with children with disabilities.

Training and Consultation
Regional assistive technology coordinators are available statewide to consult with educators, families and service providers on children's assistive technology needs. They provide both training and consultation wherever it is requested -- in homes, at school or at other sites in the child's community. Additionally, the network's equipment manager is only a phone call away to help you find out about assistive technology options available through the Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology loan pool.

Funding Coordination
The Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology Network works to identify funding sources to help children obtain the assistive technologies they need. The funding coordinator is available to work closely with students, families, school personnel and service providers to offer helpful information on related laws, policies, funding tips and possible funding sources.

Discounts on Assistive Technologies
The network has ongoing discounts established with several companies and frequently offers time-limited discounts on selected software or hardware.

Repair and Adaptation Fabrication
NEAT (Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology) provides minor repair work and modifications on selected assistive technology devices, such as adapting toys for switches. The only charge for such service is for replacement parts and postage.

Computers and Recycling
A statewide recycling service for computers and assistive technology is TechConnectors. It is a one-stop resource for individuals with special needs and family members, service providers and others. The site is http://www.at4all.com. A special program is being developed to provide downloads of free educational activities for young children.

Equipment Loan Bank
Equipment may be borrowed at no cost. Loans are for trial use to help in planning and decision-making, for temporary use when current equipment is sent in for repair, and for training. Visit the Nebraska Educational Assistive Technology web site at http://www.at4all.com for pictures and descriptions of equipment in the loan pool. To find out more, contact the center by calling (308) 784-4525 or by e-mail at neat@esu10.org.

* Pam Brown is with the NEAT Network .

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