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Neptune Beach Elementary School gets iPad donation to help teach students with disabilities and special needs

7:51 PM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. -- A local elementary school will soon be able to better educate its students with iPads.

"Is that Mickey Mouse?"

Erin Hutchinson talks to her 4-year-old son, Jack, who has Cerebral palsy.

"It's something he can access because he's so limited physically," Hutchinson explains.

"Before we had access to that, I had to play mind reader."

She's talking about a smart tablet, specifically, an iPad. Jack's school, Neptune Beach Elementary, just started implementing iPads into its six special needs classrooms, holding 45 students. However, the problem is, the school only has four iPads.

That is, until Tuesday. A donation of two tablets from the Beaches Council for the Disabled and the Ladies Auxiliary Fleet Reserve to the school will allow each classroom to have its own iPad, something the school's principal, Elizabeth Kavanagh, said has become vital to the students' individual learning.

"It lets us know their wants, their preferences, their knowledge base," Kavanagh says.

"Then, we get the added benefit of the therapy pieces."

She's referring to therapy such as muscle control for students like Timmy, whose disability has left his neck muscles extremely weak. His excitement to use the iPad motivates him to lift his head to strengthen them.

Kavanagh said it's those small steps that will help students like Timmy and Jack, with independence and life skills in the future.

"Any kind of technology that gets them building that muscle control, that's one more step toward being able to be more functional and more comfortable as a young adult and into adulthood."

 For Erin and Jack Hutchinson, that means a closer relationship.

"He is now able to express what is on his mind," Hutchinson says.

"And one of these days he'll be able to say 'I love you, mommy.'"

Other First Coast school districts are beginning to implement similar methods for their special needs programs, but a major issue seems to be funding for the technology.

All six of Neptune Beach Elementary iPads were donated, two from the Beaches Council for the Disabled, one from the Arlington Lion's Club and another from the school's PTA.

Each school district's technology for special needs and disabled students is different, so to find out what your child's school is using, contact the district.


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