NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION Assistive Technologies – Students with Special Needs: What are assistive technologies? An assistive technology device is an item, piece of equipment or product system that “is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability", (Roblyer & Doering, 2010, p.412). Assistive technologies, both hardware and software, can also be called inclusive technologies or specialised technologies, (Farrall & O’Connor, 2010). Some examples of both low-‐tech and high-‐tech assistive technologies include joysticks, speech synthesizers, screen magnifiers and touch screens, (Snowman & Biehler, 2006). Why are assistive technologies significant to K-6 Educators? We must remember that students with special needs may need to be catered for in a variety ways, and can truly benefit from using assistive technologies (Newby, Stepich, Lehman & Russell, 2006). The purpose of assistive technologies is to use technology in a way that can “offer an individual with a disability increased opportunities for learning, productivity and independence - opportunities that otherwise would not be available", (Roblyer & Doering, 2010, p.408). Assistive technologies can help special needs students feel included in the classroom. Educators have a duty to be researching assistive technologies, and implementing them into learning experiences, (Foreman, 2008). An example of an assistive technology tool - How Apple iPod Touch-screen and iPad Applications can help children with Autism: What is Autism? Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a “range of disorders involving a triad of impairments of social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, activities, and interests”, (Jurgens, Anderson & Moore, 2009, p.66). These difficulties in verbal communication, non verbal communication and social interaction, can severely affect educational performances (Snowman & Biehler, 2006). How can iPod Touch and Ipad applications make a difference? ASDs affect 1in 160 children born today (Aspect, 2010), and many of these children “are schooled in mainstream classrooms”, (Rossmanith, 2008, p.31). Educators must cater for these students and recognise that students with ASDs “appear to have a superior visual memory and visual ability”, (Foreman, 2008, p.352). It is also crucial to understand that these students have extreme difficulties with communication and social interaction. There are many assistive technologies that can help children with ASDs in their daily living and learning. However, one recent discovery has been how the Apple iPod Touch and iPad can serve as learning tools for children with ASDs (Mason, 2011). “Touch screens are the most direct and simple method of computer access and interaction”, (Farrall & O’Connor,
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION 2010, p.35). Keeping in mind, “their visual skills are superior to their other skills, and 90 per cent have a visual learning style”, (Rossmanith, 2008, p.31), touch screen devices are attractive and comforting for a student with an ASD (AutismNewsWire, 2011). Children with ASDs can struggle to stay still in the classroom (Rossmanith, 2008), and educators often give students something to manipulate in their hands. These Apple devices can serve this need directly, as children hold the device in their own two hands and control the touch screen themselves. There are a variety of applications that can be used on the iPod Touch and iPad that “are designed specifically for students with autism and other special need”, (Hall, 2011). Many of these applications help students communicate and create in ways they haven’t been able to before. “Students who have complex communication needs may need to use assistive technology to communicate with others”, (Farrall & O’Connor, 2010, p.35). Applications like the Grace application and Proloquo2go act as digital versions of the Picture Exchange Communication System, used often with children with ASDs (Moses, 2010). Students are able to express exactly how they are feeling at the time or request what they need by simply touching a picture on the screen (Moses, 2010). “ Through the devices, some of these children have been able to communicate their thoughts to adults for the first time”, (Harrell, 2010). ‘Stories2learn’ allows teachers and parents to create social stories that can remind students of how to respond appropriately in social situations and can ease anxiety for students who “need support with excursions, routings, or transitions”, (JEFFRY, 2010). There are also “dozens of other programs touted by various experts in the autism community”, (AutismNewsWire, 2011). Interactive story books are easily accessible and increase reading skills, counting, vocabulary building and spelling games can be strongly linked to English and Maths outcomes, visual scheduling applications help anxious students stay calm about what activities will occur throughout the day, and drawing, painting and musical applications can allow students with ASDs to create and relax in stressful situations. Teachers can monitor their students learning by accessing results and progress through storage facilities in the Apple devices. “Initial studies are already measuring the effectiveness of the iPod Touch and the iPad as learning tools for children with autism”, (Harrell, 2010). There are countless blogs and articles available, bursting with personal accounts of improvements and victories for families and teachers with ASD children. If affording the device is the issue, parents and teachers must remember that there are organisations, businesses, and philanthropic foundations that can provide funding or grants to families with a child with a disability, (Weikle & Hadadian, 2003). There are various applications that could help a student feel comfortable in the classroom for the first time. Dont ignore an assistive technology device that could clearly benefit your students’ experiences at school. We have a duty as educators to be constantly finding new ways to support our students. Let us continue to research how these devices are changing school and home learning experiences for children with ASDs.
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION Reason for digital response: My desire is that this digital response regarding assistive technologies will raise awareness to teachers about assistive technologies available that can support students with special needs. I believe touch screen devices like the iPod Touch and iPad can help children with ASDs, and hope this digital response can evoke further research into the issue. As a training teacher about to enter the References: eed to be aware that I have a responsibility to cater for all the needs of my students. It is classroom, I n therefore my commitment to be continually researching assistive technologies and tools available. I want AutismNewsWire. (2011). Apple iPad, iPod Touch might help people with autism take steps toward to support each one of my students and help them progress in every way I can. independence. Retrieved February 19th, 2011, from The Autism News Wire Website: http://theautismnewswire.com/NewsITems.aspx?newsID=265. Autism Spectrum Australia. (2010). Teacher knows best – Identifying children with autism. Retrieved February 20th, 2011, from The Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) Website: http://theautismnewswire.com/NewsITems.aspx?newsID=265. Farrall, J., & O’Connor, G. (March, 2010). Inclusive learning technologies: supporting students of all abilities, [Electronic version]. Professional Educator – Australian College Of Educators, 9 (1), 34-‐37. Foreman, P. (2008). Inclusion in Action. (2nd Ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia. Hall, S., S. (2011, January 31). iPad becoming valuable learning tool in region’s school. The Times- Tribune. Retrieved 18th February, 2011, from The Austism News database: http://www.theautismnews.com/2011/01/31/ipad-‐becoming-‐valuable-‐learning-‐tool-‐in-‐regions-‐ schools/. Harrell, A. (2010, August 11). iHelp for autism. SF Weekly. Retrieved 20th February, 2011, from: http://www.sfweekly.com/2010-‐08-‐11/news/ihelp-‐for-‐autism/. JEFFRY. (2010). 10 Revolutionary iPad Apps to help autistic children. Retrieved 20th February, 2011, from Gadgets DNA Website: http://www.gadgetsdna.com/10-‐revolutionary-‐ipad-‐apps-‐to-‐help-‐autistic-‐children/5522/.
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION Jurgens, A., Anderson, A. & Moore, D. W. (April, 2009). The effect of teaching PECS to a child with autism on verbal behaviour, play, and social functioning. [Electronic version]. Behavior Change, 26 (1), 66-‐81. Mason, B. (2011). Cognitive media: Understanding the brain, technology and autism. Retrieved February 17th, 2011, from The Empower Autism Website: http://empowerautism.com/wp-‐content/uploads/2011/01/Cognitive-‐Media-‐Ben-‐Mason.pdf. Moses, A. (2010, April 16). Autism iPhone breakthrough: from tantrums to app-‐y days. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21st February, 2011, from: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-‐life/smartphone-‐apps/autism-‐iphone-‐breakthrough-‐from-‐tantrums-‐to-‐appy-‐days-‐20100416-‐sjjl.html. Newby, T., Stepich, D., Lehman, J. & Russell, J. (2006). Educational technology for teaching and learning (3rd Ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (5th Ed.) Boston: Pearson Education Inc. Rossmanith, A. (2008). Integrating autism. [Electronic version]. Australian Educator, 60, 30-‐33. Snoman, J., & Biehler, R. (2006). Psychology applied to teaching (11th Ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Weikle, B. & Hadadian, A. (2003). Can assistive technology help us to not leave any child behind? Preventing School Failure. 47(4), 181-‐186