Assistive technology has proved to be an invaluable asset in special education classrooms, allowing students with disabilities to interact with peers, engage with educators and material and develop confidence and understanding more effectively. There are several notable tools which have done a lot to bridge the educational gap for students with disabilities. Here, the classroom technology specialists at SchoolMart highlight several assistive technologies available for special education educators to utilize in their classrooms.
Students who have challenges with mobility can benefit greatly from a sip-and-puff system. These devices allow students to control a computer or mobile device with their mouth, making the device perform the necessary tasks by either sipping or puffing on a controller. An on-screen keyboard is also available for students, who can type using the same sip and puff movements.
Sip-and-puff devices belong to a category of technology known as switch devices, which replace a mouse or keyboard with a more accessible tool. There are also switch devices available that allow students to kick, touch, push, pull or blink in order to control an online device.
Text-to-speech tools are available for students who have difficulty reading text, due to dyslexia, blindness or other visual impairments or any other disability. They can also be beneficial for children with autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Text-to-speech tools use software that scans written text, and then reads it in a synthesized voice to the student. Recent innovations have allowed these robotic readers to sound more accurate and life-like than ever before, pulling speech sounds from a large spoken database. These readers can also accommodate multiple languages and dialects, making them valuable for students in foreign language classes.
Variable Speed Recorders
Some learning disabilities, such as ADHD, autism or auditory processing disorder (APD), make listening to lectures and presentations difficult for students. Although a relatively simple tool, variable speed recorders can help students to get the most out of an auditory discussion. By simply pushing a button, students can record a teacher’s lecture, and then use the device to either slow down or speed up the voice being recorded. If a teacher’s pitch makes listening difficult, they can also alter the pitch of the teacher’s voice on the device. This can then be listened to while the student is studying or doing homework, as many times as they need, until they absorb the auditory material.
Videotaped Social Skills
Another low-tech—but no less valuable—assistive tool includes videotaped social skills, which can be extremely beneficial for students with autism or emotional disorders. These recordings provide real-life examples of typical and natural social interactions between peers of the age of the student watching. This can help students who struggle with engaging in conversation and making friends to become more confident in their social abilities.
SchoolMart believes in Empowering Students with Disabilities
Although the stigmas against students with disabilities have waned in recent years, these children still face serious challenges in school. Assistive technology, like the tools mentioned above, can help them to jump the hurdles set in front of them, and become more successful in school and the world at large. SchoolMart wants educators to have access to the technological devices and tools they require to help students reach their academic potential.