Technology is the great equaliser between standard education and the 1:1 approach required by students with special circumstances. It's an embarrassment to our profession that learning disabilities such as dyscalculia, autism, ADHD are chronically under-served when the tools that can seamlessly supply personal attention - the iPads and netbooks and apps and software and widgets that can be the key to unlocking physical, mental, and psychological potential - if only they were used. With nominal training and the technology, teachers can differentiate instruction to serve students with a wide range of abilities and needs. Best practices include oral tools like Siri for those who have difficulty writing; audio tools to make teacher directions more available to the hearing-challenged; art programs that allow students to communicate ideas as their brains see them; widgets that facilitate sharing thoughts via other media than text (think art and music and poetry); translation programs that make material accessible quickly and easily to non-native speakers; the differentiated instruction available through sites such as Khan Academy.
Here are four foundational links to understanding special needs and technology:
- Here's an article on iPads and visually-impaired students
- Here's another on Special Ed iPads apps for reading and writing
- Here's Internet4Classroom's list of resources for Exceptional Children
- Here's Jeannette Van Houten's iEvaluate Apps for Special Needs - a checklist for evaluating apps for special needs students
If your school budget allows for only a limited number of apps and programs this year, choose the ones that will fill out your special needs collections. Here are some wonderful apps/websites to use with your special needs students:
- Babakus - a math app for students with dyscalculia or math disability
- One-handed keyboard - a standard desktop keyboard that allows those with limited or no use of one hand to continue typing
- Five-finger typist - self-paced typing exercises for the one-handed
- iPads for autism - the phenomenal impact of the iPad on communication abilities of the autistic
- Speech and language apps from Mobile Education Store--apps to assist children with higher function autism
- How to make your own assistive technology devices
How do you accommodate the special needs of your students in your classroom?