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Rob, studying MSc Psychotherapy and Psychodynamic Counselling, shares his experience of his Launchpad sessions. 

There were a few things I had difficulty with before the training. I found it hard to get through the amount of weekly reading I had to do, as well as research and reading for assignments. For instance:
– being able to concentrate on reading for any length of time
– being able to produce something readable to take into seminars to help me use as a prompt for discussion or for essay research
– translating my erratic ideas into something useful for essay, structuring academic work
– dealing with the demands of the course when my health prevented ‘normal’ studying (for instance, how long, how often, how much I could concentrate, etc.)

There are so many functions to use in Claro, Dragon, and mindmapping software – things I didn’t even know were possible. That said, it’s important not to idealise technology as even this wonderful stuff has to follow a garbage-in-garbage-out approach. The trick is to find out what ‘shortcuts’ the technology can afford you, but still use your academic skills to collate, analyse and interpret the material. The software enables you to sail past the fuss of taking notes and using up the last bit of energy to read a journal article and means you can save some energy for the writing up. For instance, despite knowing that Claro could read out any word documents to me, I had no idea that it could also help me to gather material from multiple sources into one ClaroCapture Project that could then be manipulated and restructured to answer the question of the task in hand. ClaroRead has helped me in ways I hadn’t imagined. Trying to do academic work during or even after you’ve been in pain as a result of a disability is pretty much impossible. Unless you have software that can read documents out to you, reducing the cognitive effort from reading and maximising your potential for analysis and critical thought.

Launchpad/Sarah-jane helped me identify what areas were causing me difficulty, which of these could be addressed by technology and how, and guided me with the best ways of getting the most out of the technology. Sarah-Jane’s enthusiasm, patience and compassion allowed me to be honest about the things that cause me difficulty and get to the bottom of the problem. She was able to respond to this with real strategies I could apply to my work straight after the lessons.

Sarah-Jane was able to appreciate my inability to learn just by demonstration. I had to have a go myself. Sarah allowed me to work out how to do it for myself after receiving basic instruction, and as a result, the knowledge and experience have stayed with me. I have no doubt that Sarah would be able to respond to a wide range of difficulties with the same enthusiasm, patience and compassion. Sarah also took into account the fact that I can only work in short bursts and needed processing time after demonstrations and exercises.

 The idea of having a stranger coming in to your home to show you how to use the software or even having someone using remote desktop to show you how to use something by taking control of your computer can be scary. Whenever Sarah-Jane arrived, she arrived with a smile and was genuinely interested to hear about my course and other things cropped up over a cup of tea and biscuits before getting started on the software.

In very broad terms, the sessions with Sarah-Jane have helped me in two ways. Firstly, they’ve obviously helped me to identify areas of difficulty and suggested strategies to overcome these. Secondly, and perhaps unexpectedly, the sessions helped me to identify additional things that I am already good at and which I have started to do more. For example, Sarah-Jane has a brilliant method of helping students to organise their study materials using the technology. Sarah-Jane helped me to realise I’m actually already really good at being organised, I just don’t always remember to do it. Since meeting with Sarah-Jane, I’ve really started to understand how the skills I already have can be used even better.

Additionally, using ClaroRead and ClaroCapture, Sarah-Jane has shown me ways I can complete my weekly seminar reading in less than half the time it used to take me and formulate notes to jog my memory when I’m in class. This all helps to consolidate my learning by making the process more efficient and being more strategic – concentrating my energy where I’ve going to get work done more quickly and to a better standard.

The discussions I’ve had with Sarah-Jane over the time we spent together have also meant that we’ve come up with ideas together. For example, my ability to get started with reading and then continue reading for lengthy periods of time is really not great. Since working with Sarah-Jane, I’ve discovered that I can set a timer for 10 minutes of reading. Usually now I find that I can read for 50 minutes at a time with a short break. My reading speed and reading comprehension have become much more advanced.

It takes a few attempts to get everything working as you like it and before you start to understand all of the uses of the software in context, but Sarah has equipped me with the skills to know how to respond to this. Sarah-Jane has given me loads of resources for using the software, so I can always go back to these if my memory is a bit hazy. On the occasion that I don’t know how to fix something, Sarah-Jane happily replies to my email queries.

I would highly recommend Launchpad for Assistive Technology training. Sarah-Jane’s friendly approach mixed with cutting edge knowledge and close relationship with software developers makes the sessions highly useful, easily understood and have direct applications to my studies.

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