Community Foundation grant boosts school technology project - March 14 2013

Kiwanis Autism Project aims to equip Green Lake area students with iPads

GREEN LAKE, Wis. -- Students in the Ripon Area School District are benefitting like never before from iPad technology, and several more students in the region soon will, too, thanks to a project funded in part by a grant from the Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation.

Photo Caption: Kiwanis Autism Project chairperson Tonya Alling gives an iPad to Draten Conrey while Ripon Early Childhood Teacher Deb Konecny looks on. Photo courtesy of the Kiwanis Autism Project.

The Kiwanis Autism Project aims to provide autistic children throughout Wisconsin with the tablet computers to help them communicate with the world around them. Children in Berlin, Green Lake, Markesan and Ripon public schools are among the first in the state to benefit from this project.

"(One of our students) has shown increased independence within our school routines. Having his own iPad has made him feel important and grown up," says Michelle Beres, teacher at Ripon's Barlow Park Elementary School.

The benefits, Beres says, are far-reaching as evidence by another student who requests breaks from classwork less frequently and is calmer because he has access to his music.

The Kiwanis Autism Project is one of nine programs that received $8,470 in grants from the Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation. Grant awards were presented during an event March 12 at Thrasher Opera House.

The Community Foundation's 2013 grants are supported in part by the Ripon Fund, the Herman Schultz Fund, the Child Care Provider Training Green Lake Fund and the Lucille M. Grams Fund. More than $26,000 in aid was sought from local nonprofits.

The Kiwanis Autism Project is a venture of the Wisconsin Upper Michigan Kiwanis District Foundation and supported by 5,400 Kiwanis members of 173 clubs in the region. Autism professionals and educators can apply to receive an iPad for their student(s) through the project's website, www.kiwanisautismproject.org.

"Teachers are using iPads as a tool to reach out to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the results are remarkable," says Tonya Alling, of Ripon, who is chairwoman of the Kiwanis Autism Project. "Autistic children are showing tremendous improvement after doing exercises on the iPad. The iPad makes it less stressful and more fun for the teachers and students, and mutually beneficial for parents, siblings and other caregivers."

Additional benefits of using an iPad include improved finger skills and hand-eye coordination, promotion of self-learning by allowing children to work independently, and decreased need for adult support.

"There are hundreds of apps which are routinely used for children on the spectrum, including those which address challenges in six key areas: communication, social skills, need for sameness or routine, sensory sensitivity, difficulty with traditional learning methods, and behavior," says Alling.

It is estimated that there are more than 50 children on the autism spectrum in the Ripon Area School District alone. The project aims to provide as many iPads as possible to eligible students in the Berlin, Green Lake, Markesan and Ripon public schools.

Other Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation grant recipients include:

ADVOCAP, Inc.: $1,000
Support for the Homeless Motel Voucher Program for Green Lake County, which provides safe, temporary emergency shelter for homeless individuals and families.
Berlin Community Daycare & Preschool: $707
Support for staff to attend the Wisconsin Child Care Administrators Association 2013 conference.
Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area: $1,000
Support for the Keystone Club, which provides Club members with real world experience in academic success, career preparation and community service.
Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services Inc.: $270
Support for the Green Lake County Rural Outreach Program, which provides safety and self-sufficiency for women and children who have faced domestic abuse in rural communities.
Green Lake Association: $500
Support for the Green Lake Virtual Watershed Tour, which aims to give viewers insights into Big Green Lake's watershed, its special features and challenges.
Partners Health System Foundation: $1,000
Support for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, which aims to better serve victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse by maintaining a team of trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
City of Princeton: $1,000
Support for the Food Booth in City Park, which is in need of repairs and updates to ensure the safety of nonprofit group volunteers who serve food during Saturday flea markets.
Thrasher Opera House: $1,000
Support for the Missoula Children's Residencies, which will provide about 100 children ages 5 to 18 with experiences performing musical adaptations of "Snow White" and other classic tales.

The Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation is a Designated Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation to benefit charitable organizations in the Green Lake County and Ripon area, including Berlin, Green Lake, Markesan and Princeton. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive.

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