Benefits of Technology in Special Education
How do you school a person who is born with or developed a condition capable of impeding their cognitive ability? This subject has been discussed in the walls of hospitals, staff rooms or schools and research centers all over the globe. The conversations along this line is meant to provide the best approach possible for educating individuals who grapple with communication disorders, learning disabilities such as dyslexia, emotional and behavioral disorders such as ADHD, developmental infirmities such as autism and Asperger syndrome, and not to mention physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Friedreich's ataxia, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida.
The list is not exhaustive, as more blend or classes of disabilities are discovered almost by the day. Pupils or students who grapple with these conditions are less likely to keep up with the conventional school system designed for the healthy. Therefore, special education has been considered to be the surest route to giving disabled individuals an equal chance at education. Put simply, special education is a system of education designed to offer personalized learning for children with disabilities. While this may sound simple, it is hardly the case. Except for the advent of technology.
Before we explore the benefits of technology in special education, let’s quickly run through a definition of terms.
Special education is a system for educating students in a way that attends to their unique needs and differences. The system is carefully designed through a series of procedures, study materials, and equipment that augments the learning experience of the individual. And in the best possible environment.
Unlike conventional education, special education is planned for the individual and progress is monitored using metrics that may not apply in the general school system. Asides that, special education involves the use of trained teachers or educators.
These efforts are meant to assist children and adults with special needs to become self-sufficient in a way that allows them to excel in school and their interaction with their society. The customized training these individuals receive may not be obtainable if they were enrolled in a conventional school system.
The earliest reference to a school for individuals with special needs was in 1784 in the city of Paris. The then Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles was built with a curriculum designed to serve visually impaired students. Then came England’s first school for the Deaf, set up in Edinburgh in 1760. By 1765, schools for the blind had been established in both Edinburgh and Bristol.
Although laudable, the complex conditions of disabilities that were discovered over the centuries quickly rendered the old systems obsolete and necessitated the use of better ones.
Two centuries later the evolvement has not slowed down. With the advent of technology, most practices such as medicine, construction, and law are quickly plugging into the power of digital to amplify their results in ways never witnessed before. Special education is not left out.
Although special education students use no-tech objects such as pencil grips (to help keep their fingers in position), organizers, magnetic sheets (to hold pictures and words), highlighters, and timers (to keep the student aware of time assigned to tasks), there are other items that leverage the power of technology to give special students the best learning experience. According to Education World, there are over four thousand supportive technologies used in special education. Let’s a few of those.
• Spelling/Reading Software: Students with reading impairments such as dyslexia, can now follow up on their reading with devices having software that reads text aloud. The software also has algorithms that help pre-empt and complete the word the student is trying to type out.
• Communication boards and electronic worksheets: These boards aid visual learning. Special education students can easily identify symbols, words, pictures and letters in record time. Electronic worksheets, on the other hand, assist children with dyslexia in aligning words and numbers on pages.
• Tablets and Apps: modules can be neatly arranged into videos, audios and other forms of visual content to aid learning. Videotaped social skills are also displayed here to help autistic students.
• Variable Speed Recorders: Since some disabilities impede students' ability to process auditory messages, they can be provided with a variable speed recorder. The student presses the record button on the device during class, to listen later, with regulated speed.
Now that we know what technologies are employed in Special needs education, let’s see the immense benefits of technology in special education. Ready?
• Assistive learning: When we realize how many disabilities stifle the education of students with special needs, we begin to appreciate the opportunities it provides for the average student who struggles with dyslexia or speech delays. Technology eases the main goal of special education, adapted learning.
• Greater independence: Pencil grips, used to position the fingers, are just one of many items that relief special needs children of the burden of being micromanaged.
• Greater interaction with their peers: Videotaped social skills allow students with social disorders such as downs syndrome to learn the basic behaviors required to relate with people.
• Greater communication and participation: The inability to process words as fast as the others can leave dyslexic students struggling to catch up with the rest of the class. Technology such as text-to-speech can read text out loud for these students to keep them abreast of the flow.
• Enhanced academic skills: Special needs students who suffer dyscalculia do not need to worry about numeric calculations. Talking calculators offer in numbers what text-to-voice functions offer in words. Thanks to the power of technology, students who struggle with arithmetic exercises have better chances of interacting with numbers with the least difficulty.
Put together, these benefits are a game-changer for a student with special needs. While education and technology have come a long way, the opportunities offered by the fourth industrial revolution are far greater than what is obtainable today. The question will not be about the availability of these technologies. It will be about affordability.
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