Learners with Special Needs assistive technology

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Following the invention of the machine in the late twentieth century, the twenty-first century has seen a modern transformation. Various forms of technologies have been invented and can be used in various areas such as surgery, transportation, and government. Technology has provided a huge boost in the education field because it can be tailored to support students with developmental difficulties in achieving their full potential and, as a result, enhancing their quality of life.
Education changes emphasize fair access to the academic environment for all individuals, with pupils with minor disabilities engaging in regular skills (Ediburn, 2006). These students attend classes with others who do not have any disabilities and are given special support by specially trained tutors. Hence, the education stakeholders have debated and recommended the use of Assistive Technology (AT) to help special needs students in the learning process. Consequentially, much infrastructural investment has been blended with curriculum structural reforms to ease integration of assistive technology for special needs students (Davis et al., 2013). A wide range of devices have been bought, modified and fed with customized programs that are specially designed to soot special need students with respect to their specific abilities and challenges. Subsequently, these devices are used to maintain and enhance the capabilities of the leaners.

Many schools are making efforts to adopt assistive technology as a boost to learning outcome and overall literacy level among students. The intense literacy promotion is considered effective if technology is properly integrated into the learning process with special attention to the learners with physical and psychological challenge (Flores et al., 2014). The technological devices are used in actual classwork and in supplementary activities that students engage in to help them understand what was taught in class. AT tools include: speech generating devices, special computers, low-tech grip pencils and iPads. In particular, iPad is one of the devices that has been tried, tested and proven for use in learning. As a matter of fact, story-based intervention using this device is one such aspect of assistive technology that promises a greater future (Flores et al., 2014). Other teaching tools that aid active learning include tablets, projectors, and personal digital assistance (PDA).

In the designing of the devices, considerations have to be taken to ensure that they are relevant to the needs of the students (Davis et al., 2013) and are easy to use. Given that learners face different disabilities such as mental retardation, emotional and behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities, it is important to ensure that each group receives customized devices that will help them improve their performance in class. In addition, the age of the learners should take into account since cognitive development is directly a person’s age.

An example of successful application of AT in the classroom is the use of the iPad. Since its introduction in 2010, the iPad has been used in education at different levels to increase the efficiency of learning (Mango, 2015). This device is highly portable and easy to modify to meet the specific needs of a given group of students. In this case, thousands of different educational apps have been applied in the classroom using these devices (Flores et al., 2014). It has aided in the teaching of different subjects such as mathematics and the arts to improve the thinking abilities of children and also enhance their memory. As a result of the application of the iPad in the classroom, students develop better attitudes towards education are able to focus better in their school work (Mango, 2015).

According to Davis et al. (2013), performance enhancement technology if aligned with the identified learning disability will yield better outcome. When technological devices are used in learning, students enjoy the process and are more likely to gain a better understanding of what is being taught and keep it their memory for long periods of time. Further the students improve on the level of engagement with their tutors yielding better results in class. Similarly students are able to carry out intensive research on the internet and gain independence in learning exercise. For this reason, the amount of work their instructor has to do in class is lessened. According to Mango (2015), learners with disability get engaged through audio-visual operating mechanism of iPad. Additionally, the use of the iPad and other technological devices in class improves on the number of senses involved in the learning process. Notably, the greater the number, the better the results posted since the brain of human beings gains maximum understanding of a concept when the number of senses used to acquire information is high. Edyburn (2006) research findings from a comparative analysis of users of assistive technology versus non-users show that the first group posted significantly better results. Thus, assistive technology has also proven to be useful in active learning especially among special needs students.

Currently, there a number of emerging issues associated with the use of assistive technology for special needs learners. First, the availability of trained staff is a challenge since the government did not take time to train the teachers who work in special need schools before the introduction of this technology. As such, it is always unclear who is to be involved in decision making process regarding the use of these devices and also in the implementation process (Davis et al., 2013). Further, the educators have a challenge in choosing the right devices from the wide range of options available in the market today due to lack of prior training. In a similar manner, most educators are ignorant of AT regulations that may hinder its application in schools.

In order to solve this problem, the government should fast-track the implementation of the compulsory literacy policy. Again, it should formulate policies to give information about the decision making process and implementation procedures of the AT technology in schools. Also, the teachers need to be equipped with sound training so that there is maximum efficiency in use of AT devices in the classroom. In addition, it is also important to identify and adopt the use of other appropriate therapies to compliment the application of AT in schools that handle students with special needs. This will ensure that the program yields maximum benefits.

Conclusion

The application of Assistive technology in schools that provide education to special needs children has been highly beneficial. The performance of these learners has greatly improved. Likewise, the children enjoy the learning process and this improves their general state of wellbeing. However, there are challenges that have been associated with this initiative such as the unavailability of adequately trained staff. The government needs to move fast to provide solutions to these problems so as to ensure that the initiative yields the intended results maximally.

References

Davis, T.N., Barnard-Brak, L., Arredondo, P.L. (2013). Assistive Technology: Decision-making Practices in Public Schools. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 32(4), 15-23.

Edyburn, D.L. (2006). Assistive technology and mild disabilities. Special Education Technology Practice, 8(4), 18-28.

Flores, M.M., Hill, D.A., Faciane, L.B., Edwards, M.A., Tapley S.C., & Dowling, S.J. (2014). The Apple iPad as Assistive Technology for Story-based Interventions. Journal of Special Education Technology, 29(2), 27-37.

Mango O. (2015). Ipad Use And Student Engagement In The Classroom. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 14(1), 53-57.

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