What is Assistive Technology?
The Wikipedia term states:
Assistive Technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. AT
promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.
This picture above is of my son using an ipad in his occupational therapy. He was using it for fine motor development.
What types of learning problems does assistive technology address?
AT can address many types of learning difficulties. A student who has difficulty writing can compose a school report by dictating it and having it converted to text by special software. A child who struggles with math can use a hand-held calculator to keep score while playing a game with a friend. And a teenager with dyslexia may benefit from AT that will read aloud his employer’s online training manual. There are AT tools to help students who struggle with:
- Organization and memory
“Assistive technologies must meet the specific needs of an individual that requires it, and not the other way around” states Andrea Prupas from inov8 Educational Consulting. inov8 Educational Consulting works with educators, families and their children with special needs, to integrate highly effective assistive technology tools into their lives at home and school.
When Andrea was asked What are the best assistive tech/learning apps on the iPhone/iPad?
There are so many excellent educational apps in different areas, so that’s a really tough question…but here are some of our top applications for five different areas.
- Augmentative Communication – Proloquo2Go is the most comprehensive and powerful communication app to date. It is a full communication system in one app, at a fraction of the cost of traditional communication systems that allows the child to communicate with pictures. It’s effective on both the iPod and iPad for different reasons; the smaller devices allow for more mobility; young students can carry it easily. Installed on the iPad it allows students with fine motor difficulties greater access.
- Behavioural Intervention – A great application in this area is Model Me Going Places. This app shows slide show models of children displaying appropriate behaviour. It is based on research in video modeling that has been proven very successful with children with autism.
- Fine Motor Skills – IWriteWords is an excellent app that allows the child to practice writing letters, numbers and words. The child traces the letter on the iPod or iPad with his/her finger. This program is very well designed with excellent results; some schools in the US have reported implementing them in Kindergarten classes for all students. The progression is based on current research in teaching pre-writing skills, and the hands-on interactive activities are excellent for students who have difficulty writing with a pencil. Originally designed for the iPod Touch, the iPad makes the application even more effective by allowing for more movement when tracing. Kinesthetic and tactile writing activities are especially effective for students with special needs.
- Voice Recognition – Dragon Dictation is the premiere app in this area. Originally designed as a business tool, it will transfer spoken language into text on any of the Apple hardware, and it allows you to then e-mail your text or send it as a text message. It is a very versatile tool that can be used on a laptop computer or mobile device. It is amazingly accurate and a great tool for students who have reading disabilities, or who are unable to write due to physical disabilities. We use this software to work with students with learning disabilities who have great difficulty with the writing process.
- Organization – MyHomework is a great app. This tool was not designed necessarily for students with learning disabilities but can be very effective with upper elementary and high school students who need to keep better track of their homework.
- Reading, Text to Speech – The Read2Me App allows you to import your own text file (even from the web) into the iPod or iPad, and will read the text aloud. This is helpful for students who might be weaker readers but are able to understand the meaning of the text through listening.
When Andrea was asked How have you seen technology benefit children with special needs?
What motivated me to start this company is the enormous impact today’s specialized assistive tools have on a student’s learning.
I have seen technology benefit students in four areas:
- Communication – A communication tool allows a student to express his/her wants and needs. Children who are non-verbal or with limited verbal skills can express themselves, sometimes for the first time.
- Autonomy – When there is a good match between the technology and the student, they become more independent and involved learners. They are able to work through academic or social tasks with support from the technology.
- Academic skills – When technology is effectively applied for a specific area of difficulty, academic skills improve. For example, we use specialized reading software for children with autism who need a different learning approach to reading. When their reading improves, skills in other areas improve as well.
- Self-confidence – Children with special needs have sometimes struggled their entire school career with academic skills. The effects on their self-confidence and self-esteem can be devastating. These tools give them the opportunity to be successful learners, and they feel confident as a result.
As ipads and smartphones are being widely used in schools, therapy sessions and even for personal use with the family there are many apps that are available depending on the need for children with special needs.
Apps for Children with Special Needs – is a repository of all different apps that are available depending on the need. (I have personally gone here to download a few apps for my son)
Apps for Special Needs – designed by Moms with apps has some other really great apps for you to download.
Here is a video I created of when my son’s speech therapist used the ipad to help him to try different food textures. Because of his low tone and sensory processing issues he has a hard time trying new foods that he is not familiar with their textures.
Here is a video my son’s speech therapist took while he was in school:
He loves doing this exercise because he loves music. So because she knows that she found a video that will help him with his pronunciation of letters. She sends me home every week with a new QR code (see below) to download the songs he worked with in speech that week.
So for the video above he was learning how to make the sound for “P” and say the different words that began with “P”.
You can also find them on YouTube under their channel havefunteaching
But as you can see Assistive Technology is being widely used to help children learn!
Does your child use Assistive Technology and how?