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Computer Education for Students with Down Syndrome


Keytalk, a computer program developed by UCLA researcher Laura (Dollie) Meyers in 1984, was a major breakthrough for children and teens who participated in programs she created to encourage them to communicate using her software, both seeing and hearing what they type. With a PhD in linguistics, Dr. Meyers worked out that some children with little expressive language did not process the small words that make sentences understandable. It was her plan to give participants the opportunity to express what was important to them to communicate, and letting them know what to add to their writing so their thoughts could be communicated clearly.

Parents of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities were encouraged by the strides their children made when given the opportunity to process language visually on the computer screen and have the computer read back to them what they expressed. Research grants allowed the program to expand from the original participants to students in a nearby school district, where it was found to be helpful for mainstream students as well as those with communication challenges.

Although parents active in disability advocacy organizations may have heard about the successful use of computers to develop and enhance the communication of children with disabilities, reports in the popular press and magazines in the late 1980s brought the news to families and professionals throughout the country and around the world. Direct quotes from Dr. Meyers and the continuing success children and teens experienced using her software changed parent and teacher expectations for children with Down syndrome and other disabilities who had not shown the great potential their communication challenges masked.

Paul Madaule quoted Laura Meyers' research at a 1989 meeting of the Association for Down Syndrome in Mexico City, announcing that older evaluations of children with Down syndrome were based on processing difficulties that affect their receptive and expressive language skills and do not reflect their actual abilities.

Forty years later, researchers are now considering how adults with Down syndrome can use the technology more easily for work and elsewhere in their daily lives with interface design improvements that may prove as helpful for their mainstream peers as KeyTalk was proved to be.

Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailers for books like Universal Usability: Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse User Populations or Mr Rogers Uses a Computer - Episode 11.

Laura Meyers Creates Software That Talks Friendly to Help Disabled Kids Find Their Voices
http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20116127,00.html

Improving Computer Interface Design for People with Down Syndrome
Presentation given by Dr. Jonathan Lazar, of Harvard University and Towson University, at the Tufts University Department of Computer Science, on February 28, 2013, related to Computer Interface Design for People with Down Syndrome - Published on Aug 3, 2013
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibqp7MJHtK8

Down’s Syndrome: Becoming Just One of the Kids By Paul Madaule
Originally presented at the meeting of the Association of the Down Syndrome in Mexico City, 1989.
http://www.listeningcentre.com/pdf/02down_syndrome.pdf

Presentation given by Dr. Jonathan Lazar, of Harvard University and Towson University, at the Tufts University Department of Computer Science, on February 28, 2013, related to Computer Interface Design for People with Down Syndrome - Published on Aug 3, 2013
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibqp7MJHtK8
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Content copyright © 2014 by Pamela Wilson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Pamela Wilson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Pamela Wilson for details.

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