Havre High School freshman Franklin Walter prepared a report for the Montana Council for Exceptional Children, which met in Missoula last week.
Franklin, a special education student who is non-verbal, was to explain to people at the Missoula conference how technology has changed his life.
Last year, the school district bought Franklin an iPad to use at school. By pressing the right buttons, a voice comes out of the iPad, putting Franklin’s thoughts into words.
For the first time, Franklin could easily communicate verbally with friends and teachers.
Now he has set up his own coffee service for students and teachers. The program was so successful that other schools wanted to hear about it.
Franklin prepared a report.
But teachers and advisers had been teasing Franklin because he was not going to give a report, he was going to give an acceptance speech.
At the Missoula meeting, Franklin learned he was one of five Montana students to win a “Yes, I Can” award from the association.
Franklin was surprised by the award, but easily launched into his acceptance speech that he had prepared as a report.
“All he had to do was add a thank you at the end,” said his special education teacher Shaylee Lewis.
While Franklin was happy with the award, he was equally happy with who he met at the conference.
He proudly displays a picture of him with Miss Montana Alexis Wineman.
Wineman had a particular interest in people with disabilities. She is dyslexic.
“She’s a pretty girl, isn’t she?” asked Karen Gibson, the district’s speech pathologist.
The award is just one more step in what has been an exciting couple of years for Franklin.
Since he moved to Havre in sixth grade, his life has changed for the better.
Last year, he got an iPad for use with schoolwork. Then Havre Jaycees purchased an iPad for him to use at home.
He started operating Blue Pony Espresso, a coffee cart he uses to provide coffee to people at the school each morning and to help him with life skills.
By pressing a button, the iPad helps Franklin ask the customer if they want coffee.
The iPad helps Franklin be the salesman.
“Would you like a treat?” the iPad asks, after being prompted by Franklin.
He presses another button.
“A pop is 75 cents,” the customer is told.
Then, with the help of the iPad, he computes the price and makes change.
“Thank you for supporting Blue Pony Espresso,” the iPad concludes.
He still has a little way to go.
Lewis said she is still working with him at looking at customers while he deals with them.
Franklin has been involved in some activities beyond the iPad. he was a star in the annual HHS talent show.
Lewis had her classes perform a dance at the talent show, and Franklin hammed it up. He’s delighted to show visitors how he can do his dance moves.
“He’s a natural talent,” Lewis said.