This year my classmates and I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Utah Assistive Technology Team Conference on February 4th and 5th at the Eccles Conference Center in Ogden, Utah. The UATT conference was held from 7:30 am to 4:45 pm on Wednesday and from 7:45 am to 1:30 pm on Thursday. Attendance of this conference was a requirement for our Professional Issues class in the SLCC OTA program and we as classmates attended as a group. The UATT Conference started out with a Keynote Session speaker by the name of Chris Bugaj. Chris is a founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools in Northern Virginia. Chris’ session was entitled, “More Than One Way to Skin a Cat – Practical (And Fun) Universal Design for Learning”. This speech was motivating and inspiring and centered on the idea that not all individuals learn in the same way. We are all unique and different and we all take in information in various ways. Our school systems should be centered on this as well and should provide various teaching methods to elicit success in each individual child. Following this session, there were many different break off sessions covering various topics that we were able to choose from. For the first session, I chose “Common Recommendations Using (Mostly) Free Resources” by Chris Bugaj. In this session we were shown different online resources such as audio supports, children’s literature, podcast recording sites, pictures paired with audio, and text to speech tools. This was a very informative session and I was impressed with all of the resources that are available and free to use. The next session I attended was the “Addressing Challenging Needs: Hands-on Demonstrations” by James Gardiner. In this session we learned about different types of eye gaze devices such as the Eye-tribe, Head-mouse, Tracker Pro and Natural Point. We learned about the different considerations for eye gaze. Some of these include fatigue, eye disorders, abnormal movement or motor control and also financial considerations. This session was different than what I was expecting but I did come out of it with a lot of new and interesting information. For the final session of the day I attended the “Beamz” session by Mary Jo Barry. This was a fun session where we were able to develop our own treatment plan and session for a patient using the Beamz equipment and software. The following day I attended two more sessions. The first was on the Dynavox/Tobii devices and was presented by Daniel Proudfoot. Although this session was harder for me to get involved in, I was still very impressed with the technology and believe in its capabilities to aide others with combining language and technology. The last session of the day was called “Advanced Boardmaker Skills” by Janalyn Biesinger. This session was great and the presenter was very good at delivering the information in a fun and interesting way.
Throughout the duration of the conference I was able to network with and introduce myself to a few other professionals. I met an OT by the name of Richard Hagen. Richard is an occupational therapist in a school setting near my hometown. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with an OT named Denise on a tx plan during our Beamz session. Denise is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Ogden area. I was also able to meet and have continued email correspondence with the representative from Eagle Eyes who ended up coming to our school for my AD presentation with Jade. This conference provided great opportunities to network and meet others in the same field as well as those in other fields that work closely with ours.
Overall I felt that this was a great experience and can definitely see myself attending more in the future. I learned so much about assistive technology and was so impressed with the many different options available to those in need. It was also nice to be in a large group of people all passionate about and working towards the same goals. It really reminded me that we are all a community and by working together we can really make a big difference. As previously mentioned, five of the things that I learned from attending this conference are that there are many free resources out there if you just know where to look, that networking is a great way to expand your resources, further your work and benefit those you help, I learned about new assistive devices I had never imagined was possible such as Beamz or Eagle Eye, I gained insight into how big the assistive technology world is and that it’s boundaries are limitless, and lastly I learned about an amazing group called UCAT who can pretty much do anything. I am so happy to have had this experience and am looking forward to attending another conference like this in the future.