Over the last few years, technology has taken a central role in helping special education students learn and communicate better. The most important aspect is that this technology is often fairly ubiquitous in society at large, but is being adapted with applications software and programs that are designed and administrated by behavioral health professionals and educators across the country.
A recent article in the publication, Disability Scoop, profiled how iPads are effectively being utilized to help children with Down’s syndrome better communicate in and outside of the classroom. These iPads are equipped with the software, Words for Life, which carries up to 5,000 words that helps the students with vocabulary, language, and communication skills that foster normal language development. The iPad creates immediate feedback and the student is in control of the pacing.
The program, which began at a school in Fort Worth, TX, started with 50 iPads for an equal number of students with autism, Down’s syndrome, and other challenges. According to developmental experts, teachers, and administrators, the iPads are having a dramatic effect on helping the students communicate better.
In addition, the iPads are raising these students’ levels of interaction while lowering their levels of frustration and aggression that come from an inability to communicate effectively. With the overwhelming success of the program, the district school board approved the purchase of more than 130 additional iPads, which will be distributed throughout special education classrooms at regular campuses in the school district.
What students are gaining educationally and developmentally are matching the cost effectiveness of using conventional iPads with the specialized software. According to a speech pathologist that works with the school, a former device came at a cost of more than $6,000 while each iPad with software was just $1,000. This enables the district to expand the program and help more students.
Behavioral health professionals, speech therapists, educators, and counselors across the country are helping to steer parents and educators to this type of technology. Using the web and other outreach platforms, these professionals create repositories for information and advice. This is augmented by gathering the many different types of readily available technology that has been proven to help in education, communication, and development where special needs children are concerned.
One of the websites, Understanding Special Education, provides a pretty exhaustive list of non-endorsed special education technologies that parents and schools can purchase. These and other sources provide information about programs and processes in addition to the differing technologies to help parents and advocates make decisions about how to choose and use technology for special needs children.
Other online sources and articles seek to help parents and educators see how the differing forms of technology can be used to assist education and socialization, and in many ways, free special needs children. The takeaway is to provide advocates, parents, and educators with a clear picture of how commonly available technologies such as iPads, smart boards, computers, and keyboards can be augmented to provide adaptive technologies that are assistive in nature to special needs children.
While challenges still exist, the gains are clear and seem to far outweigh any negatives that have been identified. While current technology proves its worth in providing special education students with educational independence and growth throughout their lives, it’s also apparent that the possibilities have yet to be fully realized.
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