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    Special Kids to get iPads

    The iPad might be the latest and greatest in electronic gadgetry, but one East County group is hoping Apples newest technology is more than a passing fad.

    Over the next few months, the Special Kids Foundation (SKF) will begin launching the As-sistive Technology Assistance Program, a local endeavor designed to provide special-needs stu-dents with a fully loaded iPad or iTouch system for use in the classroom. With its user-friendly de-sign and variety of educational applications, the lightweight, easily toteable products seem tailor made for the special-needs population.

    Many of our (SKF) members have ex-perienced fi rst hand the amazing advances our children have made with the aid of several of these devices and the applications meant specifi -cally to help them maneuver and communicate in our confusing world, said Lisa McBride, SKF founder and director. And now we want to share it with as many students and children as we can.

    Across the nation, much of the iPad/iTouch technology has already replaced bulkier laptop computers for special-needs and regular students alike. But for many families and school districts hard hit by the economy, the technology is cost-prohibitive, and so McBride and her board of directors decided to step up.

    We are painfully aware of the major cut-backs in both state and federal programs for special-needs children, said McBride. And in

    order to maintain our vision of educating and supporting those who are most critically hit by these budgetary restrictions, we are allocating a portion of our proceeds to funding the purchase of a number of iTouch and iPad systems, loading them with applications and distributing them to students in need through our loaner program.

    Heres how it works. Children with a com-munications disability and a school site aide or assistant who can help them with the device at school qualify for the program. The device would be on loan to the students for as long as they con-tinue to benefi t from the program, and parents would be required to sign an agreement that the devices would not be used by family members beyond the purposes of educational or commu-nication needs.

    Funding for the technology program, said McBride, would come from the SKFs funds, which are designed to enhance, among other things, the education of East Countys special-needs population.

    Were excited to be able to do something now to help, and this is the perfect thing, said McBride. We cant wait to get started. We ex-pect this to be a wildly successful program.

    For more information or donation oppor-tunities, call 925-516-9690, fax 925-516-6999 or log on to www.spkids.org.

    Special Kids Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofi t organization dedicated to promoting the educa-tion, success and wellbeing of special-needs chil-dren and their families throughout East County.

    To comment, visit www.thepress.net.

    Liberty Union High School Districts Tobacco Use Prevention and Education (TUPE) Program has begun holding intervention and cessation classes to educate students about the dangers of us-ing tobacco of any kind. Funded by a grant from the California De-partment of Education, students share their stories about how to-bacco has impacted their families and friends, learn about how the tobacco advertising targets youth, and gather hard facts about tobac-co use with instructors from the Center for Human Development.

    The grant has provided pro-fessional development, workshops and training opportunities for teachers, staff and students. Peer education workshops and classes have also begun in the district, which allows students to learn about refusal-skills development, mediation strategies and confl ict resolution. For more information about the TUPE Program, call 925-634-2166, ext. 2047.

    Contributed by Sarah Singrin

    by Ruth RobertsStaff Writer

    Snuff outsmokingThe Special Kids

    Foundation is launching a technology-assistance program designed to provide iPads and iTouch devices to students with special needs.

    Photo courtesy of Apple

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    Grey unveils gift of the here and nowIt drifted in like a tide, in silence. I never

    saw it coming. At dawn I awoke from one dream world only to be seized in the grey and damp grip of another. No caffeine ritual could dispel the effect of this fog; only wind or a searing sun. Or a hike.

    The steep and narrow snake known as Marsh Creek Road between Brentwood and Mt. Diablo does wonders for a motorists attention to the task at hand, even in clear air. In fog, the task is tinged with the fl avor of fear. Headlights that materialize a mere

    40 yards away are powerful deterrents to iPhone/Starbucks multitasking. If youre not alert to the present, your future could be brief. As Steven Wright put it, if everythings coming your way, youre in the wrong lane.

    It was Saturday, Jan. 29. As my car plowed the opaque morning moisture on its way to the mountain, I wondered how my journey on Diablos trails would resemble my journey to the trailhead. A hike in the fog can be an exercise in aesthetic awe or just exercise. When you cant see more than 40 yards ahead, the assault of a 4,000-foot peak is the scenic equivalent of a traipse down your neighborhood sidewalk.

    As I motored up into Clayton, the fogs underbelly began to lift, revealing

    the wizened face of North Peak, its apex still shrouded in mist. A minute later the 1,400-foot knob of Meridian Point came into view, barely beneath the bottom of the fog bank. In the foreground, Donner Canyons oak-clad contours lay half-

    cloaked in a gossamer veil.I struck out south on Donner Canyon

    Road and swung up Meridian Ridge toward the 3,000-foot crest of Bald Ridge, where Id take stock of the atmosphere and head up to the Summit or back down by way of North

    Peak. No need to haul butt to a pinnacle that provides only a sea-level vista.

    For all its palpable mystery and peril, fog is a form of optical illusion. You know

    Saturday, Jan. 29 at Mt. Diablo. A ssure in the fog reveals the shadow of Meridian Ridge.Photo by Ger Erickson

    see Outside page 7A





    ILL REVIEW YOUR LOAN MOD FOR FREE!Id like to offer a free service to the

    community, if its of benefit to any of you. Im willing to review any loan modification offer you receive from your lender. They can be quite confusing. Ive reviewed quite a few already, so Im pretty comfortable decipher-ing them.

    If you bring your loan modification papers to me, I promise not to try to sell you anything. Ill just give you my honest opinion about whether you should move forward with the proposed loan modifica-tion, or refuse it and keep negotiating. Well sit down and go over your budget and see how this new loan fits into it. Ive seen many loan modifications where the borrower is WORSE off after the modification, and that makes no sense. In other cases, the loan modification truly is the answer to your mortgage situation, and if so, Ill tell you.

    One of the first things we need to determine is whether this is a permanent modification, or just a temporary one. Ive seen many loan modifications that are only for a year or two, and then they bounce right

    back up to what it is now. If you are expe-riencing a temporary drop in income, this may be acceptable to you. Another ke