Jordyn Zimmerman has autism, which for her comes with sensory and communication struggles and a tendency to interpret things in a concrete way. For several years, she was moved from program to program at a variety of different schools. Nothing ever worked out. Eventually, she ended up spending her days in a room by herself doing repetitive tasks. “I was bored and lonely,” Jordyn explains. “I wanted to be in class with my peers.”
In December 2013, an incident between Jordyn and a teacher led to her being removed from Hudson High School in Northeast Ohio. Two days before her mother, Karen, was to meet with school administrators, she called Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) to find out what her rights were and how to best advocate for her daughter.
DRO Attorney Virginia Wilson got the case. Immediately, through an iPad, Jordyn was able to speak with Virginia in complete sentences. They spent hours discussing Jordyn’s frustrations about her situation and her hopes for the future. It was a breakthrough that was a surprise to everyone but Jordyn.
Virginia worked closely with the school district and Jordyn’s IEP team for the next year and a half, to get everything in place for Jordyn. She also requested an assistive technology evaluation to help Jordyn use her iPad, so she would be better equipped to communicate with her teachers.
“Once Jordyn could show what she knew by using her iPad to communicate, things at school started to change, and the team could start to really focus on helping Jordyn learn the skills she needed to meet her goal of becoming a special education teacher.”
In addition to her academic achievements, the iPad has given Jordyn a way to speak to the broader community. Jordyn has given a variety of presentations to various groups about her disability, her educational pitfalls and the tremendous benefit she has received from assistive technology.
“Now that I’m part of a school community, I’m also part of my own community,” Jordyn says. “A school is part of the community, and if a student doesn’t feel included, it isn’t good. Inclusion shouldn’t just be a buzzword. It’s important for people with disabilities to be included as valued parts of their schools and communities. The key to that is to find ways to understand and help one another.”