FW: For What It’s Worth



From: Scott Royall
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2005 9:53
To: ‘Dianne’
Subject: RE: For What It’s Worth




As an intelligent person, I’m
certain that you are quite familiar with the old adage, “can’t see
the forest for the trees.” You spent your working career being a very committed
tree in the educational forest. That is something to be proud of. There’s
also no doubt that others are just as dedicated. After all, there are much
easier ways to earn a living. Unfortunately, dedication alone doesn’t
assure an education system that does the best job for its real customers, the
students. Have you ever been to a doctor who seemed to regard you as more of an
object, a case to be studied, rather than a person? Of course. I think we all
have. From the doctor’s perspective, he has all the training and
experience so how can you have anything germane to say? Well, educators can be
the same way. Just sit back for a second and take an objective look at your own
response to perceived criticism of the education system. Aren’t you being
somewhat defensive?  Yes, and it’s because, to you as a “tree
in the forest,” there is no separation between those dedicated educators
and the system itself. Please remember that organizations of extremely
dedicated and talented people can still do stupid things. One look at NASA
validates that assertion, right?

Any system, whether it’s education, a spacecraft, a sailing ship, a car,
or even a society, must receive and internalize input—criticism, if you
will—from outside sources if it is to reach its goal. That’s why we
still navigate by the stars—natural or artificial, because there
isn’t another reference that’s anywhere nearly as impartial. The
stars don’t care how noble you are; they simply tell you if you’re
off-course. Another cold and hard fact is that strangers outside of the Special
Ed community cannot usually understand the ACS students are getting. You could,
because of your time listening to those synthesizers. Humans can almost
automatically learn to relate any sound to a specific meaning if given enough
practice. However, that’s not how things go out in the world.


My opinions have nothing to do with blame,
but everything to do with where the issues are. With that in mind, I have to
put it to you that some of those people in that ivy tower you mentioned are
educators. They are certainly not going out and asking strangers if they can
understand a given voice synthesis system. Vendors usually don’t either.
Your response is interesting as it is quite similar to the response
decision-makers have been giving Xpress It. The reaction is basically,
“how dare you advise us. We’re the ones who know what students
need.” Maybe they do, but the result is a graduating student who
won’t be able to communicate with the myriad of strangers out in the
world. In effect, these students are no better off than when they entered the


I do not pretend to know all the facts and
have all the answers. I can tell that you don’t either. In essence, that
imperfect picture of the world is at the very core of Xpress It. Xpress It is
an augmented communication system, pure and simple. That means that verbal
communication is its forte and all it knows about. Xpress It neither knows nor
cares if its input is coming from a real keyboard or a virtual one on-screen
controlled by a mouse or various scanning devices. In computer parlance,
that’s called “device independence,” and I submit that
it’s critical to giving the Disabled better access to computers. My
contention is, based on direct experience, that computers are the one class of
technology that comes closest to enabling the Disabled to function as societal
members. That implies that disabled people need to be able to use the same
commercial software everybody else does. In fact, that is pretty much a
prerequisite for holding any significant job. No ACS should ever impede that
ability, but, so far as our research has shown, only Xpress It can pass that
test. Remember that I had to write Xpress It after all of the leading
contenders flunked out at Shell. That’s an empirical benchmark that even
the tallest ivy towers are ill-advised to ignore. Xpress It is designed to be
one piece in a jig-saw puzzle reflecting the set of solutions best suited to a
disabled individual. Just as the degree and impact of disabilities cover a
broad multi-dimensional spectrum, so must these mix-and-match solutions. The
catch is that the people who evaluate and recommend such things must become
smarter about things that can and should work together. Those decision-makers
we’ve talked to are resistant to giving up their Swiss Army knife
solutions and I can’t blame them. It will be a brave new world, but
there’s no better way to take the “dis” out of disabled.


I’ll leave you with this bone to
chew on. Obviously, no computers were available when we grew up so icon-driven
ACS weren’t an option. Instead, one teacher had the idea of introducing
me to an IBM Selective typewriter when I was kindergarten age. Yes, typing was,
and is, laborious, but it gave me the same ability to communicate anything I
could spell (or get close to spelling) that’s at the heart of Xpress It.
That’s why I’m somewhat eloquent mow. If I had been introduced to
an icon-driven solution, I would be much less educated than I am no matter how
virtuous my teachers were. An undeniable part of human nature is to follow the
path of least resistance to get what we want. Thus, my opinion is that children
with any sign of language comprehension should be kept well away from
icon-driven ACS or you risk blunting their motivation to master language.


I’m not going to rise to respond to
your views on sexual orientation because it’s well outside the scope of
our discussion.



From: Dianne []

Sent: Friday, July 22, 2005 1:59
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Re: For What It’s Worth




You may put my comments on your blog.  When I mention
the behaviors of students in middle school, I can tell you whether you except
it or not, young people are acting out homosexual behavior to be popular. 
Whether it will be their future orientation or not I don’t know.  I
understand what you say about your brother.  I, too, have been close to
gay people. I don’t think there is one answer to that.  There are
probably many reasons for that orientation.  One is thought to be behavior
practice and first experiences.  It can be chosen.  Perhaps you
half-brother is not one of these.  That doesn’t mean that others don’t


I don’t know about your one speech director.  I have
worked with many.  My last school was an inclusion school.  That is
not the whole answer either.  Again, it is easy for you to set on the
outside and comment and criticize.  It is quite another to work with the
reality and the real setting.  Intellectualization is not reality. 
It is an important part of the solution, but, it, alone, does not produce
results.  Hard work, trial and error, suffering through the failures of
educated efforts, seeking alternate methods, not giving up, these are some of
the factors that produce results with non-communicative youngsters.  A lap
top and software program will not do it.  They are the answer after the
real work is accomplished.  They are the conduit for showing what has been
learned.  They are not the process of learning itself.  They may help.
 A child who cannot spell or read cannot use your program.  I have not known
people to shove students aside and not have academic goals of reading.  I
have seen districts hire people for one-on-one help so that the student can get
the most out of academic instruction. 


Scott, how much time have you spent inside schools and
monitoring Special Education programs in recent years.  Are you listening
to one or two people who might be in ivory towers who are using their criticism
to make themselves feel superior.  I think you think you know what you are
talking about.  I don’t think you have a very good grasp of the programs
and situations.  Please don’t criticize what you don’t really know. 
Your experiences as a student are long ago in the past.  Special Education
methods and programs have come a long way.  Don’t kick these people. 
They would do anything they knew to work to make these students with
disabilities able to function in society.  To have people like you
sit on the outside and talk about their failures and accuse them of being
apathetic and ignorant is sick and non-productive. Perhaps you should get
a job helping.  Why don’t you talk to these people and offer to come in
and help students who need what you know?


You are welcome to put this on your blog also.






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