Success Story: Collaborating With Local Organizations to Obtain Funding
Barbara Gerhard, SLP
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, North Carolina
What did you do?
A number of professionals working in our exceptional children's division recognized that, as a district, we did not have a centrally organized approach for completing augmentative communication evaluations/assistive technology evaluations or a focused means of providing staff training and trial periods with equipment for our students. We gathered a group of speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and our audiologist to talk about short-term, as well as long-term, goal setting to improve the process and support available in our school system.
As part of this discussion, we realized that there was a need for an Assistive Technology Inventory to assist with training, trials, and testing. Our school system did not have the financial resources at the time to provide the funding for this inventory. So, rather than wait until the system could find the resources, we began considering other options for funding, including grant monies.
Our audiologist had recently received a grant, and we decided to approach the same local foundation for consideration.
What were the challenges you faced?
Once we decided to write a grant proposal, we were all too aware that we did not have all the resources for making the best decisions for specific pieces of equipment, software, etc. that would be most critical for our outlined purpose. We were fortunate to have other school systems in the state that were more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise. We recognized that the committee needed more training to be better informed about all that should be considered as a district as we were organizing our program. Once again, we were fortunate to be able to have representatives from our committee attend timely trainings offered in our state, including one by Joy Zabala outlining the SETT framework, which has become the basis for our assessments.
What was the outcome of your effort?
We received approximately $40,000 in grant money from the Winston-Salem Foundation, a resource for our local community. With the inventory in place, we were able to get the support from our administration to have one of our speech-language pathologists assigned to a newly created position, assistive technology coordinator. Our team also made sure that we had a process in place for referrals as well as plans for staff training. As a result of our efforts, we now have procedures in place, an inventory in place, and staff to coordinate our AAC/AT efforts.
What advice would you give others?
Dream, organize, network, and look outside your setting for options to support purchases that will make a difference for children. We would encourage others to look to community foundations, as we did, to seek resources to support projects.