Teaching students with special needs is traditionally not viewed as an easy task. It requires the teachers to be truly special as well. For special needs students, it is difficult to learn when compared to mainstream students. A special education classroom will have a mix of students with different special needs.
But the situation has changed now.
One cohesive force has filled the gaps in special education classrooms and made learning less of challenge for students with special needs –
Students who are differently abled with learning attracted to technology and usually have skills that exceed that of their teachers. Because of this, it makes perfect sense to make use of smart devices such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, voice adapters, etc.
You would be familiar with school management software and the like. Similarly, there are assistive technology software that can add cohesiveness to special education classrooms.
Let us take a look at a few of them.
Electronic Math Work Sheets: Students can learn with the help of a computer screen and voice synthesizer. It is an ideal option for students who struggle with paper and pencil. These programs help students to work, and organize math problems as required.
Alternative Keyboards: For students who struggle with learning disabilities and typing troubles, alternative keyboards can be a great help. These are keyboards which would have aid such as colour coding and other graphics, fewer input choices, etc.
Data Managers: Students can store, plan and organize data such as tasks, dates contacts, etc in electronic form. Data managers can either be a modified smart device, software or a combination of such tools.
Customized FM Listening Systems: To help students focus on what a speaker (usually a teacher) says, there are customized FM systems. They consist of an earphone and a microphone or a wireless transmitter for the speaker.
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Talking Calculators: Speech synthesizers give traditional calculators the ability to read each number and symbol aloud. They also provide answers as auditory feedback. It helps with accuracy for special needs students.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) : Users can scan documents with printed text to and the computer or handheld smart device will read the content aloud. OCR is available as stand alone devices and also as software.
These are but just the tip of the iceberg. A number of other software are being developed each day to help with the learning of special needs students. These tools cover students with difficulty in writing, organization and memory, reading, listening and math. For the visually impaired, there are braille display software and speech recognition. An example is Lync, which even allows teachers to send instant messages to students.
Such assistive technologies are not limited to aiding differently abled students alone. Any student with learning, communication or other cognitive issue can make use of these technology.
Infact, mainstream devices such as the iPhone and Google’s android operated smartphones have features to help differently abled people. You would be familiar with features such as voice assistants and magnifiers.
So, technology has more or less ensured that learning is not any more of a challenge to students with special needs than it is for mainstream students.