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TIKES - Technology to Improve Kids’ Educational Success

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Parents of young children with a disability often face new challenges as parents as they navigate the special education system. One of the many tools and resources available to them to help their child learn, grow and develop is a category of items called assistive technology. Technology to Improve Kids’ Educational Success or TIKES, began as a five-year model demonstration project from 2013 to 2018 designed to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities ages birth to 5 by helping parents and providers understand how AT can help.

Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), TIKES is a project of PACER Center. The TIKES project partnered with three Minnesota school districts (Anoka-Hennepin, Bloomington, District 196) to develop a model of parents and professionals using assistive technology (AT). Although TIKES worked exclusively with these three districts, anyone can use and benefit from the materials found on the TIKES web site. Additionally, many of the resources provided by the Simon Technology Center are broadly available. Beginning in 2018, PACER Center will use other financial resources to continue the TIKES Project and work with additional Minnesota school districts.

Assistive Technology or AT is a specialized category of technology defined in special education legislation. Basically, it is something that helps a child learn, develop and grown in their natural environments. AT can be something as simple as a tummy time discovery board to encourage exploration for an infant with a visual impairment to something as complex as a communication tool that helps a toddler explore speech sounds and develop language.

Across the nation research has shown that while a variety of AT is available for children ages birth – 5 it is relatively underutilized. Research also shows that when assistive technology is used, it can make a big difference in just a short amount of time.

January 2013 — July 2013
During the first six months of the project grant TIKES staff planned and refined the implementation plan as outlined in the grant proposal.  Common evaluation measures were developed by the three OSEP grant recipients, the OSEP Project Director, and SRI an evaluation and accountability center.  These common measures will be used across all three grant recipient implementation sites for accountability and to identify commonalities across implementation sites.  TIKES staff also worked with staff from implementation partner 1, Bloomington Public Schools, to identify training dates and topics and further outline year 1 implementation grant activities.

August 2013 — June 2014
TIKES conduced 9 trainings with 26 participating educators representing early intervention and early childhood teachers as well as a variety of related service providers.  Participating educators helped review and rate TIKES training content and identify important training topics.  Technology representing the range of items appropriate for young learners were identified and purchased for the district EI/EC tech inventory and put into use by Bloomington EI/EC teachers.  Additional TIKES project activities included coaching opportunities and reflective journaling. 

Several events were also held for families to introduce them to technology for infants, toddlers and preschoolers and invite these families to participate in project activities such as assistive technology consultations, trying technology through the Simon Technology Center Library, and more.

July 2014 — June 2015
In its second year of implementation TIKES worked to add two new implementation sites to the project.  Training dates and times were scheduled, training topics identified.

July 2015 — June 2016
TIKES conducted training for all implementation partners on Including AT in the IFSP/IEP and the newly developed TIKES’ Child-Centered AT Plans.  Participating providers with all implementation partners implemented the Child-Centered AT Plan with the children and students they work with. All implementation partners also identified technology to be added to their EI/EC tech inventory.

TIKES’ Project Officer from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) visited in March 2016. She met with TIKES staff and the TIKES advisory board and visited the classroom of a participating educator and students in District 196.

A panel of experts in both assistive technology and early childhood was selected to review a sampling of TIKES materials. This expert panel found that the TIKES materials represent current knowledge of evidence based practice in the use of AT with young children, are of high quality, and are useful and relevant.

A strong focus this year was on increasing family involvement.  As of June 2016, 83 families were participating in the project, which included 88 children. These families participated in several activities, including home visits, consultations, and coaching on various assistive technology topics. They also received free memberships to the Simon Technology Center lending library.

July 2016 — June 2017
TIKES developed several training materials to help early intervention and early childhood professionals build their capacity in assistive technology in early childhood. TIKES continued to coach and support participating providers and families with all three implementation partners. The project’s work with its three district implementation partners ended in June 2017.

July 2017 — June 2018
TIKES continued to develop resources to help parents and early intervention and early childhood professionals build their capacity in assistive technology. TIKES held an Early Childhood Assistive Technology Train the Trainer event in November 2017 where the project’s training materials, Child-Centered AT Plans, and resources were shared. OSEP’s funding of the TIKES Project ended in June 2018.

July 2018 — Present
TIKES will use other financial resources to continue the project and work with additional school districts. The project will work with each new school district for one year to build the district’s capacity in early childhood assistive technology. Participating professionals will set goals for their AT professional development and receive support in presenting the TIKES training materials to parents and other district professionals.