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New Grant Ensures Continuation of Assistive Technology Center at UCF

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By Karen Guin

The University of Central Florida will continue to offer the latest in assistive technology services for individuals with disabilities thanks to a new grant from the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology.

From 2005 to 2011, UCF's Communication Disorders Clinic housed the Atlantic Region Assistive Technology Demonstration Center thanks to grant funding from FAAST. A new grant from FAAST, worth approximately $550,000, will continue the center's operations at UCF for an additional five years.

"The center has flourished at UCF," said FAAST ARDC Director Jennifer Kent-Walsh, principal investigator for the original and latest FAAST grants. "Orlando has proven to be an ideal location for the center because many Floridians already come here to access professional and medical services and enjoy our recreational activities. I'm so pleased we can further serve people with disabilities in our 10-county service area."

FAAST ARDC is unique in offering a variety of assistive technology services to individuals of any age or with any type of disability who reside in Brevard, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Seminole, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. At the facility, individuals with disabilities and their families, as well as service providers, learn about assistive technology devices from highly qualified clinicians and UCF graduate students preparing to be speech-language pathologists.

Clinical Instructor Pam Resnick works full-time for the center, providing demonstrations of equipment, skill-development training, and assistance in borrowing or purchasing devices. She also teaches graduate students about the technology and oversees their work with clients at the center.

Resnick helps fulfill the center's mission of improving public awareness of assistive technology as well. For example, last year she and several students provided device demonstrations and training over two days at a summer program in Brevard County for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"It is difficult for me to describe the value of the services that [they] provided," wrote Jacqueline Yearby, executive director of the nonprofit Angels Bridging Gaps, which held the summer program. Through this program, Resnick and her students gave some children their first experience of using assistive technology in community settings, including a bowling alley.

"Pam has influenced countless lives by leading and coordinating many outstanding programs through the center," Kent-Walsh said. "The possibility of offering children and adults the full potential of effective communication via AAC [augmentative and alternative communication] continues to inspire me, and I know Pam feels the same way."

Six years ago, Kent-Walsh made a strong case for housing the FAAST ARDC at UCF largely because of the clinic's long history of offering services to individuals with communication disorders and her own expertise in AAC. Under Kent-Walsh's leadership, the FAAST ARDC has grown substantially in its equipment inventory and client base. With a new, five-year grant to support the program, Kent-Walsh anticipates the center will continue to grow its service capabilities, outreach and collaborative partnerships -- all in an effort to improve the lives of Floridians with disabilities.

The FAAST ARDC is one of six regional demonstration centers funded by FAAST. To learn more about the FAAST ARDC, visit http://www.faast.org/programs/regional-demo/atlantic . To learn more about UCF's Communication Disorders Clinic, visit www.cohpa.ucf.edu/clinic .

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