Kevin O’Brien is a 7th grader with special needs. For Kevin, there’s a big difference in using a good vs. a high-end technology.
For many years, Kevin used Tobii Technology eye-gaze device so that he could participate more in his art class, communicate with his teachers, conduct online research, type papers, and do incredibly well in his academics.
However, the wired device also restrained him to the classroom as it was attached to his desktop.
Last year, Tobii Technology released a wireless version of the same product, and Kevin was, of course, given one.
With the wireless device attached to his wheelchair, Kevin feels he is more involved in the class activities than before. He says he can freely talk with his mates, do his homework, participate in classroom discussions… no matter where he is.
As a result, he has become an independent member of his school community.
Successfully educating a child with special needs has always been dependent on matching them with the best technology device or app.
And the good news is that, over the past five years, these technology devices and apps have been improved and expanded by quantum leaps.
For example, almost all smartphones, tablets, and mobiles come with a universal access functionality.
This universal functionality allows visually-impaired children to access built-in apps, such as Braille displays, screen-reading tools, speech recognition, and text-to-speech.
Those with hearing-disability can use technologies such as video-conferencing apps, sound amplifiers, closed-captioning apps that promote lip-reading and sign language.
Likewise, many schools have also started to use weighted blankets, weighted vests, weighted lap pad, and other deep touch pressure (DTP) products in the classroom to help children become more calm, focused, and improve their productivity.
In addition to improved focus and productivity, there are also other weighted lap pad benefits, such as:
- It improves attention span and concentration.
- It can help a child become calm and relaxed during a seated task, like in the classroom.
- Helps children to sit in one place for a more extended period.
- It can be used anywhere – in class, on a chair, on the road, and at bedtime.
A recent study revealed that while wearing a weighted lap pad, children with ADHD were able to focus on their classroom 15 to 18 times better. Similarly, another research proved that wearing weighted vests boost attention-to-task, in-seat behavior, and task completion in children with autism.
Technologies such as the ones mentioned above not only allow a child to understand the concepts and ideas discussed in the classroom and keep up with their peers, but it also assists the school to integrate special needs children into more advanced classes.
And the great thing about these technological devices is that they are portable, highly mobile, and more inexpensive. As a result, more students with special needs now have access to these excellent assistive technologies.
Plus, these tools look cool, and almost all children with disability are excited to use it.
Assistive technologies have a significant impact on students, and among those who benefit the most are children with special needs.
Children who have reading, writing, and memory recall issues are now using high-end assistive technologies that read text back to them, capture everything spoken in class and written by the student, and stay organized with their assignments.
Students having difficulty reading every word in an e-book reader, for example, can sit in their class with their headphones on, and then listen to the words as they are read to them, and then have a discussion on core literature.
In the past, students sitting in the back would not participate in the class, because they were considered either shy or introverted, or someone with a behavioral problem. As a result, they did not engage in the classroom.
However, assistive technology tools have changed all of that.
Today, students who have difficulty hearing use high-end technologies to stay focused and motivated in their classrooms. As a result, they participate in classroom activities and discussions more.
Likewise, with an interactive whiteboard, they can see, touch, and even change visuals on the screen. They can also play with words to compose new sentences.
As students learn to use whiteboards, it’s essential that you (a teacher) explain to them “what” and “why” they’re doing so that they improve their skills. This way, it will also help you determine their level of understanding.