What is Assistive Technology for Special Education?

When working with children who have unique needs, it is important to always think outside of the box. What may work for one child may not be the right fit for another student and their individual needs. Sometimes when children are placed in the least restrictive classroom, it may be helpful to have an assistive technology evaluation done.

What is Assistive Technology?

Kids with disabilities may have trouble in different areas. This could be in reading, writing, or math. Other kids may have difficulty hearing, seeing, listening in a classroom, or communicating with others. Physical, motor, and mobility limitations may also impact the way a child is able to work in a classroom. Assistive technology takes the strengths of a child and allows the technology to help them to overcome their weakness.

Assistive technology may be a device or a service for a child. There are several variations of assistive technology depending on the child’s needs. For example, a child’s wheelchair would be considered assistive technology just as a keyboard would be for child who struggles with handwriting. High tech, low tech, and web-based items may be utilized in different manners. High tech assistive technology would be equipment or devices that are complex in nature. This includes computers, electric wheelchairs or portable word processors. Low tech assistive technology doesn’t require much training, if any at all. Typically this form of assistive technology doesn’t have any complex or mechanical features. Examples of this form of assistive technology can include pencil grips and graphic organizer.

In addition to this, kids may be granted computer access to help with reading, writing, communication, studying, and overall learning. The key is for the person evaluating them to watch the child in the classroom and interview all involved. Together, they can come up with a plan which will help the individual child to be as successful as possible in the given classroom.

Assistive Technology in Education

Utilizing assistive technology in education seeks to remove limitations that would otherwise prevent students from learning and socializing at their fullest capacity. By providing these technological services, students’ academic and social skills are benefited by bridging a gap between their physical capabilities and environment.

IDEA and Section 504 are laws that ensure necessary assistive technology resources are provided to students with disabilities. Should their IEP team determine that the student requires a form of assistive technology, under the IDEA law, the school must provide it for them. The school is unable to claim that they don’t have the funding, claim that the devices are unavailable or require parents to provide payment. To ensure a student is able to succeed at the highest possible level, they are permitted to take the assistive technology home however if that student is no longer enrolled at the school, they must return the AT devices.

Benefits of Assistive Technology in Special Education

According to EdTech, the use of classroom technology increased by 55% in the year 2016. From laptops in the classroom to education based apps, surveyed teachers expressed a willingness to embrace technological advancements in order to benefit student learning. There are several benefits when it comes to assistive technology especially in the area of special education. The goal of AT is to encourage a sense of independence while providing them with access to the same level of learning as their peers. It also provides the opportunity for special education to spend more time within the same classroom as their classmates which can result in higher self-esteem and social skills.

Along with the need for AT in special education comes the need for special education professionals to assist with how to use these technologies in the most efficient manner possible. From measuring success to assisting other education professionals on the students’ IEP team, school based professionals certainly play an essential role in creating a successful environment.

Necessary Technology in Schools

It is important to remember that assistive technology is not meant to replace a teacher. IDEA notes that assistive may include a wide variety of things. A child with a disability may require the school to assist in the selection, purchase, and use of a device. At the school level, after a device is bought, they must adapt it if needed and make sure that it is repaired and in working order. The school may also need to train the student, family, and teachers how to use it. All of this will ensure the proper use and most effective results.

When a child is given a technology device, it is important to make sure they understand why they are using it. A netbook is not to be used by a child to play games. It is often given to students to help with their writing skills if they have fine motor concerns. They may also be used to electronically organize school work and notes for a child who has executive function difficulty with traditional notes and folders. When used properly, assistive technology will make a student better able to function in their current academic environment.

No matter what is used, it is important for therapists to monitor students when they’re using the devices. Does this appear to help them? Are they more or less frustrated? Ask the child and teachers who work with them how they feel the technology is helping them. Be open to asking for additional information from the technology specialist if something is not going as smoothly as expected. They are often aware of more ways to try devices with students and how to adjust it to their needs.

How is assistive technology used for students in your school? Share how this process works in your district, along with different things that have worked for students. Do you find that families are receptive to assistive technology use or are they more skeptical? Share your comments and insights with us in the comments section below.

Our team at ProCare Therapy  understands the substantial role that you play in the lives of your students which is why we are dedicated to parking you with the perfect environment where you and your students will thrive. To get started on your adventure, browse through our available Occupational Therapy opportunities.

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