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Letter from the Director Ask Emerson Best Buddies Spotlight Conversation Starters e-Buddies of the Month e-Buddies in Action Technology Corner

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e-Buddies in Action!

Each month, we are happy to take the time to highlight a school or agency that is involved in e-Buddies. Our hope is that this will be an opportunity to share some of the challenges and triumphs encountered through group participation in e-Buddies!

This month, we feature our participants from North Mississippi Region Center.

How long has your group been involved in e-Buddies?
Our NMRC group has been involved in e-Buddies since 2002. Now, 7 years later, we are continuing to benefit from this program.

How many members are currently matched with e-Buddies?
Our e-Buddies group consists of 6 members. Each member of this group looks forward to e-mailing their e-Buddy every week. They truly enjoy telling about their week and hearing about the life of their e-mail friend.

What are some key challenges you have faced and overcome?
Literacy is a key challenge that our clients face working with e-Buddies. Due to their disabilities, some members in our e-Buddies have difficulty reading the e-mails from their buddy or replying independently. We have overcome these challenges in different ways. NMRC uses a computer program that is a talking word processor. Our e-Buddies copy and paste the e-mails, and by touching a simple switch, they can "read" their mail sentence by sentence. Therefore, the computer actually reads their e-mails to them. We also have an NMRC staff member at the computer with the client to help as needed with message ideas, spelling, or acting as a scribe in writing their e-Buddy.

At NMRC, many of our clients have physical disabilities that do not allow them to use a standard keyboard effectively. To overcome that challenge, we have an alternative access keyboard, Intellikeys, which our clients use for typing. The keys on this device are larger with more space in between them. The keyboard also has a color contrast to make it easier to locate the numbers and letters. In addition to keyboard use difficulty, our client's physical challenges make it difficult to use an ordinary mouse. We use a trackball with a switch click that allows them to operate the computer more independently. By using a single switch, individuals can log on to the internet, open their mail, and send e-mails easily on their own.

How do you make e-Buddies work with your group?
At NMRC, we make e-Buddies work with our group by allowing the client to take over. Instead of doing the work for them, we enable the members of our e-Buddies group to do as much of the work as they possibly can on their own. Through the use of assistive technology, e-mailing their e-Buddy becomes their project. NMRC staff members strive for the client to do his or her work as independently as possible. The group member then knows that it was his or her words in the e-mail, and they also feel proud of the work they have done.

What have your group members gained by participating in e-Buddies?
NMRC is licensed as an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded (ICF/MR). Our facility provides comprehensive services to individuals with intellectual and related developmental disabilities. Our group members live at NMRC. They have gained not only friends outside of the facility, but also expanded knowledge of the world around them. Our group members enjoy the opportunity and pleasure of broadening their world by e-mailing their e-Buddies.

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Do you work with a group of e-Buddies participants? We'd love to feature your group here! Please contact us at ebuddiescomments@bestbuddies.org.


Letter from the Director | Ask Emerson | Best Buddies Spotlight
Conversation Starters | e-Buddies of the Month | e-Buddies in Action!
Technology Corner | The e-Beat Archive

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