Shannon Swope knows what a family of a child with disabilities faces, when it comes to obtaining the proper piece of assistive technology. Such devices allow a child or adult with a physical or cognitive disability to perform everyday tasks most people take for granted as independently as possible. A social worker at Children’s Specialized Hospital, Shannon meets with the families of her pediatric patients to connect them with resources in the community, where they can gain access to the services they need.
Recently, Shannon worked as liaison with a family. Their daughter needed an augmentative and assistive communication (AAC) device. The question was what kind of equipment and where to start? The little girl started with the most basic, a single BIGmack “jellybean” switch to turn on a recorded message. She then progressed to the iTalk2 dual-message communicator, also from AbleNET. From there, she mastered the Talkable IV, through which the user can select one of four 20-second recorded messages. The family’s speech therapy provider wanted them to try out different equipment. Purchasing this for short-term use, however, would make little financial sense even among families who could afford to do so. So, Shannon consulted with the Technology Lending Center, a lending library where New Jersey families can try out AAC equipment and other assistive technology for free before making an investment.
“I think it’s a very valuable resource to have in the community,” Shannon says of the Technology Lending Center. She adds, “It’s very challenging for families to have schools and private insurance approve a request. It’s important for families to have this service.” To purchase equipment, these families may have to wait for insurance approval, which is often a daunting task. Shannon also points out that Dave Lam, Technology Lending Center Coordinator, was very receptive to loan extensions. “He was really responsive to our requests. That was much appreciated, as well,” she says, adding, “I would certainly consider TLC for anyone else looking to borrow equipment.”
In the end, Shannon notes that the family’s ability to try out these devices may have contributed to their daughter’s ability to make the transition from one assistive technology solution to another. In addition, borrowing the equipment allowed her to carryover the skills she learned with her speech and language pathologist and to continue to make progress both in therapy and at home. “It was fun to watch the patient grow through more sophisticated equipment.” And, as for the parents, “They want what’s right for their child,” she says. “It’s exciting for me to be a part of seeing their child progress from a device to one that is more complex. It’s really cool and a rewarding experience.”