Quick Take: Learn about assistive technology in special education. Get examples of how interactive digital whiteboards can aid students with impairments and disabilities.
Assistive technology in special education can bring much-needed help to teachers who have students with disabilities or providing special education services. Implementing assistive technology cannot fix all the issues students may have but it can help students cope with their impairments and aid teachers in providing the best learning experience they can for all students.
The National Center for Education Statistics found that 6.7 million students between 3 to 21 years of age are receiving special education services. This makes up 13% of all public school students. Of this 34% of the 6.7 million students receiving special education services had specific learning disabilities.
●20% had speech or language impairments
●14% had other health impairments (including limited strength, vitality, or alertness)
●5% - 9% of students have autism, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, or emotional disturbances
Special education students are supported under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which specify that schools must provide students with disabilities the appropriate services and accommodation for their educational needs. Assistive technologies like interactive digital whiteboards (IDW) fall under educational accommodations.
According to Understood.org, “special education today is still focused on helping children with disabilities learn.” This is not only a special classroom for certain students but accommodating special needs and providing additional services to students so they can learn alongside non-disabled peers.
From the perspective of a teacher, looking for technologies to assist students with disabilities would require them to find assistive technology that would be used for:
1)Only students with disabilities: For example, a vision-impaired student may have a special device to read out text for them.
2)All students including students with disabilities and non-disabled: For example, all students would have a personal device that has the capability of text-to-speech among other functionality.
The role of the assistive technology in special education for both cases is to support students who have special needs with tools that have the most impact on their learning outcomes.
There are four major categories to help students overcome or assist them with their disability in special or general education settings. These would include variations and combinations of the below:
1)General assistive technology: Providing tools and technologies to help students with disabilities
2)Additional accommodations: Allowing students extra or special options, services, or help, such as additional time or special assistance
3)Adjustment: Changing the regular lesson plans specifically for the students with disabilities such as different grading scales
4)Additional paraprofessionals: Offering help from teachers aids, teaching assistants, or caretakers on various tasks
IDW could work with all the strategies explained above. Below are some examples of impairments and to how IDWs can be used as assistive technology:
●Visual impairment: Visual impairment can include blindness, dyslexia or other visual impairment that impedes the ability to see or read. IDW can be used in different ways to help students with sight impairment for example:
■Zooming or enlarging text and images to make it larger or easier to see
■IDW built-in speakers in combination with text-to-speech (TTS) software can help broadcast materials aloud
●Audio impairment: Audio impairment affects students who are deaf or hard of hearing. IDW can be used as assistive listening systems for example:
■IDW in combination with microphones and built-in speakers to enhance the speaking volume
■IDW in combination with recording software enables recording of presentations for students to review if the teachers speaking speed is too fast or the learning environment is too noisy
■IDW in combination with speech-to-text software and microphones can help transform the presenter’s voice into readable text on the screen for students
●Extremity impairment: Extremity function impairments include the limited motor performance of the upper and lower body. IDW can be connected to other hardware or devices that would allow students to input information such as special keyboards, touch panels, writing instruments, and pointing tools.
●Mobility impairment: Mobility impairment includes any limits to lower body motor performance. IDW has several functionalities that may help limited mobility students including:
■Casting & Throw: allows students to send information from their device to the IDW
■Adjustable stand mounts: Adjustable stands can also be used with IDW to lower or maneuver the screen to best fit the students’ needs
●Speech impairment: Speech impairment could range from mild such as mispronouncing or lack of volume, to severe as not being able to produce any speech sounds. IDW can help speech impairment on different levels:
■From using microphones and built-in speakers to allow students to increase a student's speaking volume
■Using Text-to-Speech (TTS) software to vocalize student typed messages
●Attention impairment: Attention impairments are any disorder of cognitive functions including attention deficit and hyperactivity. IDW can help teachers deal with attention impairments by:
■Allowing teachers to integrate multimedia into lessons and presentations to give students more aspects to focus on such as visuals, videos, and animations
■Allowing teachers to eliminate distractions by using only one screen to display materials
■Allowing teachers to save presentations, notes and annotations for students who need to review, alternate, or divide their attention
■Allowing teachers and students to actively participate in their lesson with live annotation
Although IDW were not designed specifically as an assistive technology in special education, many features already used by teachers now can be applied and adapted to use in special education. IDW can help teachers provide better services to their students by offering them tools to enhance the learning experiences of both their special needs and non-disabled students. Being a flexible technology many IDW can be customized with special software and hardware to match the needs of many special education requirements.
After identifying technologies that may work for your student's situation evaluate the assistive technology on 4 levels:
These 4 levels will help you think about assistive technology when it is in use. If the technology only offers a limited benefit or too many restrictions, it may be better to look for different options. Great assistive technology for special education should solve a specific need very well and easily integrated into how your classroom currently functions.
Learn more about tailored educational solutions for your school at ViewSonic.com/Education.