It's often difficult for teachers to differentiate instruction for a classroom full of diverse learners. Additionally, there are many students in special education programs throughout the United States. Thus, traditional textbook and worksheet learning of years past is no longer effective, and teachers need innovative ways to teach their students. Thankfully, with the assistive technology available today, personalizing lessons to meet the unique needs of students is a possibility. In fact, technology might even be considered an equalizer, leveling the playing field between special education students and other students in the mainstream classroom.
Let's discuss some information about assistive technology:
- Who does assistive technology help? Assistive technology (AT) help students with many different types of disabilities, from cognitive difficulties to physical impairments. In fact, AT is used for virtually all types of exceptionalities, from giftedness to autism. However, AT isn't only for students with disabilities. It can be used to help any student with academic skills, social development, and motivation.
- How can assistive technology help students with physical impairments? There are many assistive technology options for students with physical disabilities. For example, students with hearing loss can use an FM amplification system in the classroom. Students with visual impairments can often benefit from letter and word magnification software, or computers with speech output. For students who have difficulty accessing learning tools in the classroom, there are a variety of AT options available. These include onscreen keyboards, voice recognition software, touch keyboards, and many more.
- How can assistive technology help students with learning problems? There is a variety of AT available to help students with learning problems. For example, students who struggle with reading can benefit from audio books and publications, which allow users to listen to text. For those who have difficulty with writing, there are many options available, including alternative keyboards. These keyboards have special overlays that customize the appearance of a standard keyboard, such as grouping keys together by color. Electronic math worksheets help students who struggle in math by allowing them to work through problems on a computer screen. These are just a few AT options for students with learning problems; there are many available possibilities.
Differentiation and personalization of the learning process aren't the only benefits of assistive technology either. According to Shannon McCord, an augmentative and alternative communication specialist in California: "Recent technologies mean you don't have to single kids out." That is, these students can work alongside their peers in the mainstream classroom without feeling like they're in the spotlight, thanks to advances in assistive technology.
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