Special needs program receives $10,000 grant for iPads

Tablets will help meet the wide-ranging needs of the students

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 11, 2013

HAZEL PARK — Trying to cater to the educational needs of your typical classroom is difficult enough — students come from all walks of life, and different kids excel and struggle at different things.

For Michelle Krause, special education supervisor at Edison MAX School, and her fellow staff members, the challenge has been tailoring each student’s education to their individual needs. The school, located at 1700 Shevlin in Ferndale, is part of Hazel Park Public Schools and serves K-12 students with significant emotional disabilities from throughout Oakland County.

“Because of their emotional and behavioral problems, some of them might have missing chunks in their educations, so some skills may be less developed,” Krause said.

The school recently received a $10,000 grant from Panasonic Automotive Systems in Farmington. A parent of one of the children at the school is an employee of the company and signed the school up for the grant, which will allow Edison MAX to acquire 15 iPad tablets, a mobile charging cart that will travel from classroom to classroom, and various apps for reading, math, writing and more.

The iPads can help in a variety of ways. A class can follow the same program, but each tablet can tailor the program to the unique needs of the student, and strict controls can prevent them from sequence-breaking, as might tend to happen with kids who are easily distracted. A typical computer could provide these controls, as well, but a tablet takes up less space, and the portable-form factors allow for other benefits.

“With writing, a lot of kids have issues as far as they have the thoughts in their head but can’t get them on paper,” Krause said. “There are programs on iPad that do text-to-speech, so they can dictate to the machine, saying what they want to write, and then the iPad does it for them. We have some students with sensory issues and physical limitations, so this makes it easier for them to get their thoughts on paper without the act of writing.”

Melanie Claus, a high school teacher at Edison MAX, has homeroom kids on the autism spectrum and said the iPads can help with socialization.

“There are a number of applications good for dealing with emotions and feelings, and for some students, it can help them express themselves verbally, since some have minor-to-moderate speech impediments that make it difficult talking in front of the class,” Claus said. “There are also social applications — games that can get them interacting appropriately with other students. It’s a good way to open doors to other avenues.” 

The grant was applied for last year. Krause said she was pleasantly surprised when she received word they had been chosen.

“I apply for so many grants, so many different things, and you always get the same letter: ‘We appreciate your interest, but…’ And I do understand the economic climate has been rough, even on corporations,” Krause said.

“But when I got a letter from the parent, telling us we had received this grant, I was like, ‘Wow, are you kidding me?’ For all of us at Edison MAX, it was quite surprising. We are thrilled!”

At press time, the order for the iPads had been placed, and they were hoping to have them by the end of the year.

“Our kids don’t have visible handicaps, so I think they’re overlooked sometimes, which makes it harder to justify grants to outsiders,” Krause said. “I think this grant is really exciting for our kids.”