Assistive technology is any type of device or software that can be used to enhance the learning experience of students with special needs.
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Assistive Technology Defined
Assistive technology is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities. assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do, or to do so more effectively and efficiently.
What is Assistive Technology?
At its simplest, assistive technology (AT) in special education is any device or system that helps a student with a disability achieve a educational goal. The technology can be as simple as a pencil grip or as complex as a computer-based communication system. It can be high-tech or low-tech, purchased commercially or homemade.
The federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines AT as: “…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”
This definition includes a wide range of tools and devices that can be used in educational settings to help students with disabilities achieve their goals. Some common examples of AT devices used in schools include:
* Alternate computer keyboards
* Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems
* Computer software programs for reading, writing and math
* Electronic aids for daily living (EADLs)
* GPS systems and apps
* Hearing aids and cochlear implants
* Index cards and assignment notebooks
* iPods and other MP3 players
* Large print books and materials
* Literacy software programs
* Math manipulation tools
* Motorized wheelchairs and scooters
* Noise-cancelling headphones
* Optical character recognition (OCR) scanners
* Oral motor devices
* Photocopiers with Braille options
* Portable ramps * Reading glasses
* Recording devices * Specialized furniture
What are the different types of Assistive Technology?
There are many types of assistive technology devices that can help children with special needs in the classroom. Some devices are low-tech, meaning they do not require batteries or electricity. Others are high-tech, and may include computers and specialized software. Here are some examples of assistive technology devices that can be used in the classroom:
Low-tech AT devices:
Pencil grips – These attach to the pencil and help the child hold it correctly in order to write.
Paper weight – This helps to keep paper from moving around too much while the child is writing.
Sturdy writing paper – This type of paper has raised lines that help guide the child’s pencil as he or she writes.
Highlighters – These can be used to highlight words or lines on a page so that the child can focus on them while reading.
Magnifying glass – This can be used to help the child see small print.
Objects with textures – These can be used to help the child feel the shapes of letters and numbers as he or she writes them.
How does Assistive Technology benefit Special Education students?
Assistive Technology, also known as AT, can be very beneficial to students with disabilities. It can help them with communication, academics, social skills, and more. AT can be used in the classroom, at home, or in the community. It is important to find the right AT for each student because it is not one size fits all.
How does Assistive Technology help with communication?
AT can support the development of communication skills for children who are nonverbal or have difficulty using speech to communicate. AT can also help kids who have trouble with the motor skills needed for writing or drawing. Assistive technology devices and services can be used to supplement, not replace, instruction and support from teachers, therapists, and others who work with children with special needs.
There are many types of AT devices that can support communication. These include:
-Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, which provide ways to communicate for children who are nonverbal or have limited speech. AAC devices can be simple tools, such as picture boards or visual schedules, or more complex electronic systems that generate speech.
-Speech-generating devices (SGDs), which are AAC devices that use synthesized speech to enable a person to communicate. SGDs can be as simple as a light-up toy that makes a noise when pressed or as sophisticated as a computer system with voice output.
-Communication apps, which are software programs that can be run on tablets or smartphones to provide AAC features such as text-to-speech (TTS) and symbol supports.
Many children with special needs benefit from using AT to support their communication skills. AT can help children who are nonverbal communicate their wants and needs, interact with their peers, and participate in class activities. For children with limited speech, AT can help them be better understood by others and increase the number of communication options they have.
How does Assistive Technology help with academics?
Assistive technology can help students with disabilities in a number of ways. One way is by providing tools that can help with academics. For example, there are word processors that can help with writing, and there are specialized software programs that can provide support for math and science. There are also tools that can help with organization and time management. Assistive technology can make it possible for students to participate fully in the academic process.
How does Assistive Technology help with social skills and behavior?
Assistive technology in special education can help with social skills and behavior in a number of ways. For example, it can help with communication, providing a way for students to communicate with others. It can also help with organization and time management, providing a visual way for students to keep track of what they need to do. And it can provide a way for students to get feedback on their behavior, so they can learn from their mistakes.
What are some common Assistive Technology tools?
Assistive Technology (AT) in special education is any type of technology that can be used to improve the educational experience of students with disabilities. Some common Assistive Technology tools include: text-to-speech software, voice recognition software, and mind-mapping software.
Some common communication devices used as assistive technology tools include:
-AAC devices (alternative and augmentative communication devices): These can be high-tech or low-tech devices that allow a person to communicate. Examples of AAC devices include picture boards, sign language, and voice output systems.
-Telecommunications: These technologies can be used to help a person with a communication disability participated in telephone conversations, computer conversations, and video chats. Examples of telecommunications assistive technology tools include text telephones (TTYs), amplified telephones, captioned telephones, and videophones.
-Computers and software: There are many software programs that can be used to aid in communication. For example, there are voice recognition programs that allow a person to speak into a microphone and have the words appear on a screen, as well as programs that convert text to speech so that a person can hear what is being said.
There are many types of academic tools that can be used to support students with disabilities in the classroom. Some common examples include:
-Adapted books and materials: Books and other materials that have been specifically modified or created to meet the needs of a student with a disability. This might include books with larger print or braille books for students who are blind or visually impaired.
-Assistive listening devices: Devices that amplify sound and can be used by students who are hard of hearing or deaf. This might include headphones, FM systems, or amplification apps for smartphones or other devices.
-Communication boards and devices: Devices that allow nonverbal students to communicate their needs and wants. This might include picture communication boards, apps that provide alternative communication methods, or voice output devices.
-Computer software and apps: Software and apps that provide specific supports for students with disabilities. This might include text-to-speech software, mind mapping software, organization tools, or reading comprehension supports.
-Educational games: Games that can be used to teach academic concepts in a fun and engaging way. These might be specifically designed for students with disabilities or they might be general educational games that have been modified to meet the needs of a specific student.
Social skills and behavior tools
There are a number of different types of tools that can be used to support social skills and behavior. These tools can be used to help with things like staying on task, listening to others, and interacting with peers. Some common social skills and behavior tools include:
-Visual schedules: Visual schedules can be used to help individuals understand what tasks need to be completed and in what order. This can be especially helpful for individuals who have difficulty with transitions or are easily overwhelmed by new tasks.
-Social stories: Social stories are short narratives that describe a particular social situation. They can be used to help individuals understand expectations for behavior in different situations.
-Communication boards/books: Communication boards or books can be used as a form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). They can be used to help individuals who are nonverbal or have difficulty with communication express wants, needs, and thoughts.
-Task analysis: Task analysis is a step-by-step breakdown of how to complete a particular task. This can be helpful for individuals who need assistance completing multi-step tasks independently.
How do I get started with Assistive Technology in Special Education?
Many people may not know what Assistive Technology in Special Education (AT) is, but it can be a very important tool for students with special needs. AT can help students with special needs to communicate, interact, and learn more effectively in the classroom. If you are a teacher, parent, or student who is interested in AT, there are a few things you should know.
Talk to your child’s teacher
If you think your child might benefit from using assistive technology, the best place to start is by talking to your child’s teacher. The teacher might be aware of some solutions that could help your child in the classroom. If not, they will be able to provide insights into your child’s strengths and weaknesses that can help you determine what type of assistive technology might be most beneficial.
Contact your state’s Assistive Technology Program
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to get started with assistive technology in special education will vary depending on your specific needs and resources. However, one of the best places to start is by contacting your state’s Assistive Technology Program.
State AT programs are federally funded and many offer a variety of services, including information and referrals, device demonstrations, short-term loans, training and technical assistance, and financial assistance for the purchase of assistive technology devices and services. To find contact information for your state’s AT program, visit the AT4All website.
Attend an Assistive Technology fair
If you want to learn more about how assistive technology can help students with special needs, one of the best things you can do is attend an assistive technology fair. These fairs typically feature exhibits and demonstrations from a variety of vendors, as well as workshops and presentations from experts in the field. This is a great way to get an overview of what types of assistive technology are available and how they can be used to support students with special needs.