Using Technology to help
Special Needs Students
TEACHERS to Used by:
access information and
engage in learning
•P.L. 100-407, 1988 (Tech Act) was designed to enhance the availability and quality of
assistive technology (AT) devices and services
The Tech Act defines AT devices as any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is
used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Seven ways assistive technology can be applied to the classroom
1 -- Organization
Graphic organizers visually assist students in developing and structuring ideas
High technology Low technology
the outline function of word processing Autoshapes and Diagram
software –both Outline View and Flow charting
Outlining in Print View. task analysis
webbing or networking ideas
2 -- Note taking
High technology Low technology
OCR-optical character recognition software which can scan - Provide copies
typewritten material and transform it into computer-readable text of structured
Microsoft Tools => Imaging and Scanning outlines for
students to use
notes can be read by a voice synthesizer- Speech function in filling in
use micro-cassette recorders Insert Sound & Verbal information
Comments Outline View and
Video taping class (be careful not to include faces of students in Outline
→for visual learners
→for students who are absent a lot
Take notes on a laptop computer – (Most kids don’t type fast
enough to take notes in a class. )
(a portable keyboard is less expensive)
3 -- Writing Assistance
Word processing may be the most important application of assistive technology for students
with mild disabilities.
Many have difficulty in the language arts, specifically in writing.
Word processing software enables students to put ideas on paper without the barriers imposed
by paper and pencil.
Writing barriers for students with mild disabilities include Mechanics
Speech to Text
On screen keyboard
Processing help- (AutoText, AutoCorrect, Grammar/Spellcheck, Synonyms)
Word prediction software aids in the processing of written materials-
Helps with word recall
Definitions or synonyms
By providing several choices
Text to Speech
Organizational/ Diagramming charts
Computer editing reduces or eliminates legibility problems. The final copy is neat and
legible. (Handwriting recognition.)
Desktop-publishing & Multimedia provides students the means and the motivation to
generate new and more complex ideas.
Varieties of fonts and styles, customize writing, highlight important features.
Graphic images, drawings, and even video & audio provide interest or highlight ideas.
4 -- Productivity
Assistive productivity tools can be hardware-based, software-based, or both.
Calculators----hand held Spreadsheets, databases, graphics, tables,
Calculator----- on a computer charts, diagrams - software also offer
PDAs------------ small, portable productivity tools enabling students to work on
devices called personal digital subjects that may require:
5 -- Access to Reference Materials
Telecommunications and multimedia are providing new learning tools for the students.
Multimedia-based tools make information more accessible.
Charts, pictures, animations, audio, and video in reference-based software can be used to
address a wide variety of learning styles
Teacher generated --------PowerPoints, modified word documents
Commercially Prepared:--tutorials and reference material-Research feature
The Internet -----------------electronic encyclopedias, library references, museum
sites and online publications from NASA and other organization home pages
Access to the Internet offers: These experiences should be structured
Motivation The Internet is complex.
Resources It is easy to get distracted or lost.
There is inappropriate material on the WWW.
6 -- Cognitive assistance
Application program software is available for instructing students through:
drill and practice
Programs to read written material:
Reads pages of the book – Speech options
Highlights the words as they are read-Highlighting tool
Can pronounce the syllables
Give the definition of a word - Research options include a dictionary
When the student clicks on a picture, a label appears. A verbal pronunciation of the label is
offered when the student clicks the mouse again. (Sound options, Verbal comments)
Available in both English and Spanish (Translation features)
7 -- Material Modification
Special educators can customize instructional materials to meet the varied needs of students
with disabilities to provide learning tools that students can use to balance weak areas of
learning with strong areas.
These modifications may mean
using materials and devices
modify computer-based instructional materials by
-----incorporating video, pictures, animation, and text
-----boldfacing, underlining, highlighting (shading, coloring), resizing,
-----limiting amount of text seen at once
adapting skill sequences
providing personal assistance
adapting the physical environment
Final Note: While many people assume that assistive technology is expensive, low-tech
adaptations can be effective and affordable.
General Design Considerations
One to two main points per screen.
Use short sentences and define difficult vocabulary.
Provide a lot of examples that the student can relate to coming from the students life.
Examples should be “authentic” to the real world life of the student.
•Behrmann, Michael, “ED378755 Jan 95, Assistive Technology for Students with Mild
Disabilities”, ERIC Digest E529, pp 1-4.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated.