By Amy Williams
Over the past few years, there has been a push to ensure that every student is able to participate equally in the classroom. The past assumptions that special education must be a separate entity from general education is fading. It is giving way to filling the desks with a rich and diverse student landscape.
Researchers have looked extensively at the outcomes of education for students who have disabilities. They examined their placements and concluded that the children’s classroom setting or placement didn’t impact success. It’s actually the quality of instruction that enabled children to reach their achievements.
Inclusion in the Classroom
Studies suggest inclusion is the most effective solution to create well-rounded individuals and learning environments. This practice ensures all children are developing social skills and sound fundamentals at the same times.
Inclusion goes beyond the simple “mainstreaming” illusion. Attempting to mainstream students with special needs is done with the best intentions, but often this occurs only when there is no instruction. This unintentionally creates a type of segregation that places students with their peers only on a part time basis for “specials” like art or music.
The teacher has a monumental job in front of him or her. Luckily there are a variety of assistive technologies available to supplement lessons so all students are learning and engaged. These devices promote independence for people with disabilities as they adapt and interact in their environment.
8 Types of Assistive Technology to Utilize Today
In the past, assistive technology was expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to locate. These units were bulky and lacked easy mobility which stifled a child’s peer interaction. Today, technology advancements are easing the job of individualizing lessons and locating materials to create a scholarly environment for all students.
Here are 8 forms of assistive technology to use in your classroom today:
Apps for tablets. Combine iPads with communication apps to allow students a variety of ways to convey their ideas with a tap of the screen. The lightweight and portability of iPads make this easy to use.
Encourage positive behavior and parental participation with computer programs. Class Dojo is a great example of what is available for educators. This program allows students to receive real-time feedback on behavior and class participation. It is also a great way to communicate with parents.
Look for co-writer word programs that are similar to autocorrect. This allows children to write and express their ideas on the computer without worrying about spelling. There are also apps for dysgraphia that allow students to snap an image of their paper and type in the answers to avoid falling behind in class.
Use hearing aid compatible headsets to allow children with hearing impairments or aids to hear audio better. These simply fit over a hearing aid and work just like headphones.
Smartpens can streamline the writing process. These writing utensils have the ability to record lectures or spoken words as you write, which allows the author to focus on writing or listening. Later, they trace the words on the paper to hear the recording.
“Slide boards” or custom made supports for keyboards or tablets. These wood or plastic frames steady hands while typing or engaging on a screen without limiting the device.
Velcro tabs or small stuffed animals. Look for small handheld manipulatives that provide stimulation to help calm restless children or increase focus during lectures or quiet times. These are examples of low-tech assistive technology.
Monitoring software for Smartphones and Internet use. This is a good recommendation for parents of children with special needs who are using the Internet on a regular basis. These programs allow parents to view a child’s texts and online activity to make sure they are not being targeted by cyberbullies or predators.
Encouraging All Students
Individualized instruction for all learners allows them to master or review concepts at their own pace. Pupils are able to rewind clips, pause videos, or rework problems to develop a greater understanding of the lesson.
Surprisingly, educators have noticed that inclusion has benefitted the entire student population—not just the ones who have an IEP. This process, aided with assistive technology, possesses the power to create meaningful experiences that are superior to one size fits all worksheets and direct lesson plans.
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