Reiter & Walsh, P.C. is happy to announce that Alex Tierney of Pittsfield, Massachusetts is the recipient of our 2nd annual birth injury scholarship. Alex wrote about his diagnosis of fetal stroke, as well as his use of assistive technologies during his academic career. While doctors predicted he would never walk, talk or be in a mainstream classroom, he graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with high honors and devoted his time to tutoring and mentoring children with disabilities.
Alex used his essay to explain his motivations for enrolling in George Mason University’s Master’s Program in Assistive Technology. He describes his own personal use of assistive technologies, and explains how critical these technologies were to his academic success. He cites his volunteering experience at a local elementary school as the event that spurred his interest in assistive technology advocacy – while mentoring a 2nd grade student labeled as a ‘non-reader,’ he found alternative communication methods that worked for the boy. As the child began reading his first words, Alex found his passion.
He began volunteering at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of the Berkshires, leading to employment as an AT assistant. As he continued his work with UCP, he began to wonder why the public schools he attended never offered assistive devices to the students that needed them to achieve their maximum academic potential – in spite of Congress’ 2004 IDEA Act, which was meant to provide students with disabilities with necessary aids and services to assist in their education.
He continued his research and found that public schools were both underfunded and woefully understaffed in aides trained in the use of assistive technologies. Finding that there were already extensive rehabilitation networks of AT specialists and equipment loan centers in place at non-profit organizations such as UCP, he set his sights on integrating available resources into the public school system, which did not take advantage of the resources these organizations could provide.
He is now planning to attend George Mason University’s Master’s Program in Curriculum and Instruction (with a Concentration in Assistive Technologies) in order to develop an early-intervention system for children in elementary school that will provide students with the assistive technologies they need to succeed. He will use this degree to tap into existing AT expert networks and loan centers in order to make assistive technology infrastructure independent of strained school budgets. He is already laying the groundwork for this effort, participating in awareness-building public relations campaigns and taking on a position as the head of a local public school assistive technologies program. He ultimately plans on starting his own non-profit organization that will train students, parents, teachers and specialists in assistive technologies to help them develop strategies for helping children who need assistive technologies.
Please join us in congratulating Alex and wishing him success in his future endeavors!
If you’re interested in applying for the 2016 Caring For Life scholarship, please review the qualifications on our scholarship page.