The E-Mentoring Program
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In the Beginning
Jake’s determination to make an impact in this world began when he was only hours old. Having beaten the odds of survival, Jake proved he was meant to have a place in this world, a place that would demonstrate the meaning of courage, hope and purpose.
Jake was born with a serious internal birth defect that allowed his abdominal organs to develop in his chest cavity, reducing lung development. This required immediate surgery to correct.
“On the day he was born, we were told about his life-threatening condition. He was our first child, so we just went with the flow. We did what we had to, because we didn’t know differently.”~Jake’s mother
As Jake grew, his parents began to witness developmental delays in the areas of motor control and vision. He was diagnosed with cortical visual impairment at the age of 5 months, and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It was during this time that he began his journey through the maze of special education.
“My disability is unique and a lot of times I don't see myself as really having a disability. There are so many people out there who have more severe disabilities than I do.” ~Jake
Jake is now 18 years old and in the midst of planning for his transition out of high school. The introduction of the E-Mentoring Program provided Jake with helpful tools that assisted him in planning for his transition.
“The course has helped me narrow my career choices and has made me think about what I actually can do after high school.” ~Jake
In the 11th grade at Ohio State School for the Blind, Jake worked through the E-Mentoring Program on a weekly basis. It gave Jake the opportunity to think about his future while using technology to investigate career choices. Jake’s assistive technology enabled him to independently access the online curriculum and activities.
“I think the course has helped Jake focus in on what he might want to do after graduation. He was able to identify that he wants to be a writer. I think that all along we’ve thought about college. He wants to begin by taking a few classes at Columbus State. The personality assessments were so useful to Jake. Seeing him compare/contrast his chosen areas of interest gave him direction in his career choice. Having a portfolio that is electronic and changeable is the most valuable product of the course.” ~Jake’s mother
Jake’s elementary school years were supported by professionals who could see Jake’s potential. As Jake entered 4th grade, his occupational therapist initiated the idea of teaching Jake Morse code. Having major speech differences, Jake was determined to find a more complete way in which to interact with his environment. He learned Morse code using the same switch that they taught him to use while in preschool. Who would have guessed that such simple technology could go so far!
“I have found Morse code and a piece of hardware called Darci Too that translates Morse code into English on the computer. It has helped me learn to use a computer independently for the first time in my life.” ~Jake
Upon entering Ohio State School for the Blind in 6th grade, Jake was becoming proficient at sending Morse code, so a device called a Darci Too was purchased. While at OSSB, Jake and his family would learn the vital importance assistive technology plays in Jake’s ability to interact with his school curriculum, home environment and community.
“The best part of my school day is when I am able to use the computer independently! I use Darci Too thru a "jelly bean" switch and a screen reader called Jaws.” ~ Jake
(A “jelly bean switch” is a large round button that Jake can push in order to activate an object that the switch is plugged into.)
In addition to the Darci Too, Jake has used other assistive technology to access the school curriculum. With the help of an assistive technology specialist, Jake’s technology has been made available to him on a USB flash drive. This flash drive is completely transportable, so he can independently access information on a computer and complete his school work from many different locations.
“Jake and I enjoy experimenting with new technologies together. Most recently we programmed a free speech recognition engine to recognize Jake's speech commands and use them to wirelessly activate and control Internet radio shows! Jake's positive attitude and technical abilities bode well for him moving into the future." ~ Jake's AT Specialist
“Jake can now access his online conversations alone without help. He can, for the first time, make his own phone calls. He was able to type, “I love you” for the first time. He has a huge music library on Windows media player and can choose what he wants to listen to, and when. He no longer needs our help to give him choices and start a CD or tape player.” ~Jake’s mother
A mentor has become an important figure in Jake’s life, now that he is approaching transition. A mentor provides Jake with a caring adult who is there for him when he needs reassurance, guidance and a companion.
“The best part about having a mentor is having someone to bounce ideas off of and to talk with by e-mail and in person at mentoring events. We talk about college (she just graduated from college); I have her look at my finished schoolwork to give me suggestions.” ~ Jake
The E-Mentoring Program has proven itself valuable because time constraints and travel considerations have not been a factor for Jake and his mentor. E-mail is available 24/7 and it offers a high level of convenience. Now that Jake has a means for portable assistive technology, he is able to access the Internet and his mentor’s e-mails from home, school and in the community.
“Having the opportunity to e-mail a mentor and ask for guidance will be helpful to Jake as he transitions. His mentor seems genuinely concerned about his well-being, and Jake looks forward to talking with her. They are learning each other’s trust and friendship. His circle of friends is getting bigger now. We like the fact that he is branching out from “just family”; I think that’s important as he grows into adulthood.” ~Jake’s mother
Jake and his mentor have been matched for over 2 years now. As time goes on, their relationship builds. They have been given opportunities to teach one another about life as they know it, each bringing a unique perspective to the relationship.
“Being a mentor to Jake has been such a great experience. I've learned a lot from him as we have gotten to know each other over the course of the E-mentoring Program. It has been exciting to watch his progress as he explores what he wants to pursue after high school. The combination of e-mailing and getting together in person once in a while has been a perfect way to communicate and share ideas.” ~ Jake’s mentor
This story of Jake is a testimonial to the value of the E-Mentoring Program. It can truly make a difference for all kids, even those with significant disabilities. Jake is an inspiration to the E-Mentoring Program. We hope you’ll make a success story of your own just as Jake has!