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July 25, 2014 | 27th Tamuz 5774

Using Technology to Help Autistic Students Communicate

Dear Shana,

We have a family in the congregation with a 9 year-old autistic son. The public school has him using a Vantage machine, basically a little computer through which he communicates. The mother came to me asking if there are Jewish materials for the machine, as she would like him to get some Jewish education. Can you help?

The following link will take you to the Vantage in the Prentke Romich Store: http://store.prentrom.com/cgi-bin/store/VT-AEN-MORE.html

The Vantage is capable of communicating by multiple communication strategies, among them:
1) Speaking by selecting pre-stored messages (text-to-speech or recorded) stored on a grid.
2) Communicating with the "Unity" system, the Prenke answer to more advanced language capabilities.

Jewish related content (templates) could be created by anyone familiar with the Vantage Software. Entering content in general requires some work as the device is not user friendly. Typically, the device is regularly modified by the support staff; it would be very easy for them to create messages with Jewish themes. If the support staff lacked the appropriate images, they should investigate the ability of the program to import downloaded images off the Internet.

In the meantime, the family and staff should decide on the age appropriate Jewish content and searching for matching images, as a starting point.

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