One of the things that came out of Brendan’s IEP meeting this year was a discussion about whether or not to order text books with enlarged print for him. Up through second grade there was no need to do so because the print in all of their school books and work books was large enough that he could easily read it. By third grade the font in their reading materials was starting to get smaller.
Brendan was still able to make it through most of his subjects without any assistance, but was struggling to read his math papers. He let his teacher and I know this around Christmastime and the very next week his teacher began blowing up the worksheets so Brendan could read them more easily. At his annual IEP meeting that year in January we brought up the problem and his vision specialist said that they would work with Brendan to see what he needed an ensure that any books that needed enlarged would be ordered in advance for fourth grade so that the teacher wouldn’t have to go to all the extra work of enlarging the materials by hand.
This seemed like a reasonable solution and the report came home that Brendan was still able to read all of his text books for fourth grade except for Math so an enlarged Math text book would be ordered for his use the following school year. At the end of third grade the vision specialist we had been working with decided it was time to retire. We’d been with her since Brendan was in Kindergarten so it was a little sad and scary to see her go. We are very attached to his IEP team since we’ve worked so closely with them for so many years. We always hate when changes are made and new faces appear on the staff.
Even with the staffing changes fourth grade started off with no issues, and Brendan had his enlarged text book just as it had been promised. Fast forward to the fourth grade IEP meeting. Overall the school year had been going well, Brendan was struggling in a few areas here and there, but his teacher and I had worked through the problems and gotten them under control pretty quickly. It made me happy to have another teacher who both advocated for Brendan and was so willing to partner with me to put solutions in place that specifically work for him.
The IEP meeting was my first chance to sit down and meet the vision specialist who had replaced the one we’d worked with before. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the new person. She had Brendan’s records in front of her, but they just don’t do justice to what Brendan can and can’t see. So part of the meeting was used to help her understand his vision issues and what his needs were. I made sure that she understood that my expectation would be to have her work with Brendan on how much of the 5th grade text books he could read easily so we could order enlarged text books in advance. She seemed hesitant to agree to this and I was thinking that either she didn’t want to do the extra work or didn’t feel that the special treatment was necessary.
But it turns out that I was mis-reading the situation. She was wondering why we’d gone that route in the past rather than going in a completely different direction. She explained that there was a program called Bookshare that Brendan would qualify for. Basically how it works is that the school would issue Brendan an iPad and through this program could get copies of all of his text books electronically. By having them on the iPad Brendan would be able to adjust the font size of any text book up or down on any given day. That way if his eyes were overly tired one day he could enlarge the font himself rather than needing to report to his teacher that he was struggling to see the material. It also meant they wouldn’t have to try and secure an enlarged text book mid year if his vision changed and took a turn for the worse.
Not only that, but through this program he could also download any leisure books he wanted to read which would make it easier for him to get through them as well. As much as Brendan loves to read books this piece of it was going to be a great benefit to him. Especially after they explained that because we had an iPad at home we would be able to download books for him to read at home through the same account they were setting up at school.
So many things go on at these IEP meetings that from time to time I don’t retain all the information they give me. Matt is usually a big help in filling in the gaps, and having Matt’s sister with me at that meeting was a huge benefit. But in the weeks that it took to go from meeting to actually getting the Bookshare program set up a few things had slipped my mind. We were finally notified that Brendan had been issued his iPad at school and that they’d downloaded a few leisure books for him to read in his spare time.
Knowing that he was all set up at school I knew we could begin looking at getting him set up at home as well. Unfortunately I couldn’t immediately remember how to go about doing that. I could have reached out to the staff at school but decided first to see what Brendan could tell me about how he accessed the program at school and from there I could possibly get things figured out.
Brendan, who is a whiz on an iPad, was able to give me the exact name of the app on his school iPad and describe in detail what the little icon looked like. I did a search for the app, and in the results that came back was an app matching his description but with a $20 price tag on it. At first I thought to myself, that can’t be right. I don’t remember them telling me there would be any cost associated with doing this. I waited until Matt came home that afternoon and together we poured through the material we had on the program and tried to figure out if we were looking at the right application or if there was another one that wouldn’t cost us.
What we figured out was the $20 app is the one we would need to download in order for Brendan to access the program from home. Through the process I also began to remember more about the conversation we’d had surrounding this at the time of the meeting. There didn’t have to be a cost to us, the school would pay for the app on his school issued iPad BUT if we wanted him to access it at home we would have to pay for that app ourselves.
There was a brief discussion between Matt and I as our two basic fundamentals came into play. First is our desire to do everything possible to make Brendan’s life a little easier. Which would mean downloading the app for him to access at home. Second is our absolute refusal to spend money on iPad apps. 99% of the time we see absolutely no reason whatsoever to spend money on apps. There are enough free ones out there that there is almost never a reason for us to spend our hard earned money on them. Especially for games and things like that. So coming from the stance that we never spend even $.99 on an app…$20 was a bitter pill to swallow.
You’ll be happy to know that the well being of Brendan outweighed our tightwad attitude toward spending money on apps. The basic discussion was, “Gosh $20 is a lot of money to spend on an app.” “Yeah but he will get a lot of use out of it and it’ll make it easier for him to read.” “Okay let’s get it.”
Now when we read together at night Brendan can download whatever we are currently reading into my iPad while I have a physical copy of the book. What I’ve noticed since making the change over to using the iPad is that Brendan doesn’t get lost any more. We have electronic versions of all the Harry Potter books on our iPad already but even with the font enlarged in those Brendan would get lost. This program allows enlargement way beyond what the regular iBooks app does and with the larger font Brendan is able to focus better and doesn’t lose his place in the book.
Despite my previous reservations, I’m quite glad that we got a new vision specialist at the school for Brendan. He’s doing much better now that all of his text books are enlarged and doesn’t feel quite so conspicuous carrying an iPad as he did an enlarged text book. Either way he’s going to stick out as being different from the other kids, but at least with an iPad he’s envied by the other kids rather than made fun of for needing a bigger book.