Tuesday, February 22, 2011

School Topples Hurdles to Learning

ALBERTSON, N.Y. — It is lunchtime in the cafeteria of the Henry Viscardi School in Nassau County, and two eighth graders are doing what boys their age do best: batting insults back and forth.
Two fourth graders at the Henry Viscardi School were fooling around in class recently, bearing out the adage that boys will be boys.
"Get off my case," Jalen says.
"If you had a case, I'd get off it," a classmate replies.
"You're weird," Jalen retorts. "No, you're weird."
It is a scene that could unfold on any given taco Tuesday in any school cafeteria, save for one crucial difference: Jalen has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak; his testy remarks come not from his mouth but from a machine called a DynaVox, mounted on his joystick-controlled wheelchair.
Viscardi is one of several private schools in New York that enroll severely disabled children, using technology and on-site medical care to keep its students, some of whom are incapable of speech or even movement, in the classroom.

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