Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., has a support program for students with autism that provides each undergraduate student with a graduate-student mentor tasked with helping them live independently and keep up in mainstream classes. "We have learned that the best way for our autism students to transition into adult life is to shadow someone who has been through the undergrad experience," said Rebecca Hansen, coordinator of the program.
Students in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergraduate class work with individuals with disabilities to create assistive technologies suited to their specific needs. For example, students created an iPhone application to read the menu of a Keurig coffee machine to help a woman who is blind and another team developed a vibrating bracelet equipped with a Bluetooth device to help a woman who cannot see and who also has a hearing impairment know when she receives calls and text messages.
The National Center to Inform Policy and Practice in Special Education Professional Development is recognizing Raleigh County Schools in West Virginia for the district's efforts to recruit and retain special-education teachers. NCIPP will highlight the district's program, which offers mentors, monthly meetings and online training to educators as part of a suite of support services, during the Council for Exceptional Children's national convention in April.
Researchers at Notre Dame University and University of Southern California are studying how robots can supplement traditional therapies for individuals for disabilities. At Notre Dame, researchers are using talking robots to teach children with autism how to interact socially. At USC, robots are assisting stroke patients with exercises as part of physical therapy.
Freeland High School in Freeland, Mich., will offer high-school students class credit for assisting peers with autism in classwork and social situations. Students enrolled in the course will be graded on activities such as completion of online training, journal entries and case meetings. "We find kids learn social skills best from their peers," special-education supervisor Erin Senkowski said.