AT Story from Pre-Conference Speaker Kelly Fonner
Kelly began her work with individuals with disabilities during her summers of junior and high school as a counselor at an Easter Seals Camp program. She then began working as a teacher’s aide at an Easter Seal’s program and in that same program worked as a teacher who used instructional and assistive technologies with the students in early childhood through kindergarten. She traveled as the Assisitive Technology specialist for the Southeastern PA Easter Seals program in 5 counties for 7 years before taking a position to cover 9 counties in eastern part of the state at the then Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Center (next PennTech, now PATTAN). After another decade in public education; a few years working at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, pursuing further education & research, Kelly started her independent consultancy where she continues to work in schools, and also consults to universities, agencies and AT companies. She trains in the areas of literacy, augmentative communication and instructional adaptations.
Kelly’s most defining moment in her career in AT goes back to her very first student, Bob, who needed all kinds of assistive technology. AT to talk, to write, to move around. “As a team we had so much to learn, so much to do. And his mom led us to many of the things that we eventually mastered and eventually were turning around and teaching other families and other staff. I will be ever grateful that we had the attitude of being open to information from all sources. I have that family to thank for my career. And I am always trying to pay that forward.”
Throughout her career in assistive technology, Kelly has been focused on implementation. Whether it has been working through how a student would type on a laptop or an Ipad, the ultimate focus was on “what work will she be doing in school?” not just the “how will she do her written work done in class, for homework?”. When consulting on students who have or are looking to get AAC systems, again it isn’t about “what device or app are they getting?”; it is about “what does he need to say at school to his friends?”, “what does he need to ask in class to his teacher?” So when that comes together, when staff, family and ultimately the student, has the AT in place that they need to get the majority of their needs met at school – academically, socially, independently, strategically – this is what makes Kelly walk away thinking that it was a job done to the best of their abilities at the time now.
In preconference Kelly continues to show her preference in being a part of a group of presenters, this year offering the AT Bootcamp. AT Bootcamp is a session where all of the areas of assistive technology come together and are reviewed at an introductory level for those conference attendees who are getting started in their journey or for those who want to become more well rounded in assisitive technology. It is also found to be a good preparation for taking the RESNA ATP exam.