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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 11267

Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (09:36): Canning Vale Primary School's Education Support Centre's new Independent Living Centre made a great impression on me. Led by principal Dianne Harper, the centre is embracing gen Y technologies such as interactive whiteboards and iPads to transform the lives of children with profound disabilities. With specially designed applications, or apps, students with otherwise limited communication abilities are now interacting freely with their teachers, families and friends.

There was much ballyhoo a number of months ago when Malcolm Turnbull began to use his iPad during question time in parliament. Similarly, Labor's Tony Burke was also much aligned when he dared to read from his tablet at the dispatch box.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Order! The honourable member should refer to colleagues by their titles and not by their names pursuant to standing order 64.

Dr JENSEN: To see how the iPad is opening doors for these children was quite simply amazing. As we know, children can be fickle characters when someone might not be quite like them. The specialist support teacher spoke to me of the way new technologies are facilitating social inclusion. The site of an iPad and its proficient operator is enough for children to disregard any barriers that may have once been built by disability. One app allows students to press an icon for their name, home, family, food and drink, to hear a prerecorded sentence which clearly conveys their need or want at the time.

Another fascinating application uses a friendly purple cat to improve speech patterns. The cat asks questions such as: what is your name; where do you live? They are simple questions for you and me but ones that can be hard for some students to answer clearly. The children reply to the cat by speaking into their iPad; their sentence is recorded and played back to them. A thumb's up or a shake of the head lets the child know how clearly they are speaking. The tools used by these young students can also be utilised by those in their teens and older to give freedom of independence. The quick press of a button on their iPhone or iPod using these same apps can clearly express to passers-by the need for assistance at any time.

We take for granted our ability to clearly communicate with others the simplest things each and every day. I take my hat off to these children and their teachers for embracing technology that is giving freedom and independence. I congratulate principal Diane Harper and staff for their dedication to their students and look forward to assisting in the school in the future.