Success Story – Tanner’s Jig

An engineering class teamed up to design and build a jig for Tanner so he could do a work experience in Spring 2018.

What made it all work? Inclusion, open-minded colleagues, collaboration

Who were the key people involved? occupational therapy, family, engineering department, Gateways Community Services, vision consultation

What happened? Tanner, a student in the Nashua School District, is deaf-blind, experiences quadriplegia, and uses a wheelchair. Tanner has a significant degree of contracture in his hands. His school team was working to identify work interests and opportunities that met Tanner’s interests and skills.

The school had a work experience relationship with Meals on Wheels. The occupational therapist went to Meals on Wheels to see what might work there for Tanner. One of the tasks was stamping paper bags with dairy free. She wondered if she could make a jig for him to stamp the bags using switches or a lever that would work for his strength and degree of contracture.

She asked for help from the Engineering teacher, who just happened to be next door to the intensive needs classroom, to figure out the angle, pressure, and speed for her jig. The engineering teacher got excited about the project and decided that she would replace her planned final project for her students with The Tanner Project. Student teams met Tanner and learned about his need. Their project was to a create a jig that permitted Tanner to use it to stamp the bags. Tanner would then try each jig and identify which worked best for him. The groups really spent time engaging with Tanner. Not only did they focus on what he needed physically, but as they got to know him and learned what made him happy, several groups included those features in their designs such as flashing lights, his favorite colors, and I think one even had bubbles.

How did you apply student-centered practices? This was all about Tanner and all about the engineering students.

Were groups outside of school involved? The entire engineering group and Tanner were invited to Gateways and shared what they had done together at a full staff meeting. We also invited the families of the students.

Activities that encouraged student growth and development? Tanner got to try new items and practice his use of switches. The engineering students were introduced to rehabilitation engineering.

Surprises? The school had never realized how they could connect these two programs which were right next door to each other. It brought students together in a truly inclusive way. There is now an annual Tanner Project that connects engineering students with real world challenges.

What will carry forward to work with other students? Engineering and Student Services are working hand in hand each year to continue Tanner Projects.

Submitted by Mindy Huckins, Senior Director of Family and Participant Directed Services, Gateways Community Services. Contact Mindy to connect with the school partners or the family.

Added 11/20/19