Kris Zorigian and Jennifer Job bust the myth that “students with disabilities cannot use the same technology that typical students use”:
Technology can be the great equalizer in a classroom with diverse learners. Whereas teachers can find it difficult to differentiate instruction for 30+ students in one class, all with different needs and abilities, “assistive technology” (devices and software to assist students with disabilities) can often help teachers personalize lessons and skills enhancement to each child. Children with learning disabilities often have better technology skills than their teachers and are drawn to computers and other gadgets, so using them in the classroom makes perfect sense. For children with physical disabilities, technology can give access to learning opportunities previously closed to them. E-readers help students turn book pages without applying dexterity, and voice adaptive software can help students answer questions without needing to write. Computers are engaging and more advanced than the typical modified lesson allows.
From communication boards to screen readers (where the written word is transformed to a talking voice) to books on tape, new technology for the classroom and at home is leveling the playing field for children who learn differently. Electronic devices, computer programs, and mobile apps are making it easier for kids with physical disabilities, intellectual impairments, specific learning disabilities, executive functioning difficulties, attentional deficits, and autism to learn and prosper academically like never before.
For the past several years, portable computer devices like laptops, tablets including iPads, and smart phones have become ubiquitous in classrooms and in homes. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of programs and apps for them, either.
Common Sense Media (Understood.org) reviews new educational apps for mobile devices, such as “Leo’s Pad: Preschool Kids Learning Series,” which is designed for children who have issues with listening comprehension or social skills:
Through animated storytelling, this app teaches young kids academic and social skills, creativity and a love of learning. Each chapter tells a story that includes interactive games, puzzles and songs. You can track your child’s progress in the “Parent’s Pad.” Designed for preschoolers, the app is cool enough to appeal to young grade-schoolers, too.
Or “Stop, Breathe, Think,” an app that could probably benefit all students:
Using guided meditation and breathing exercises, this app helps older kids de-stress, get in touch with their thoughts and feelings and practice compassion. First kids select words and images that illustrate their state of mind. Then the app gives them a list of appropriate exercises. It also tracks their total meditation time and how “settled” they feel. And for beginners, the app includes a primer on how to meditate.
Is your child struggling to learn time? Special Needs Apps has an app for that — “Todo Telling Time”:
Learning to tell time is an important life skill so we created Todo Telling Time to provide playful learning opportunities for children in kindergarten through second grade to learn all aspects of time telling through fun, interactive mini games. With this app, children will learn to tell time to the hour and minute, calendar concepts, digital time, and the components of a daily schedule.
Smart Apps For Special Needs presents their top apps from 2014, which includes “StoryBuilder”:
Designed to help children accomplish the following educational goals: 1) Improve paragraph formation; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference.
There are apps for students who need to build up their reading and math skills, and others for improving communication (speech and language) skills. For teachers and parents who need help teaching life skills and social skills, or modifying behaviors of their students, there are a growing number of apps that are now available.
Even though children may learn differently, all children can learn! Parents and teachers need to understand how each child learns best and, then, using the growing number of teaching methods and technological tools, help them succeed. Technology is here, and it’s for everyone — including children. Monitor its use, certainly, and limit screen time if you must. But embrace the possibilities that are unlocked when children use it appropriately — especially children who learn differently.