Some students face more challenges than others in their learning process. They were once labelled as ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’; today, with our better understanding of the medical conditions that can hinder learning, they are simply students with special needs.
Students with physical or cognitive disabilities require special education teachers who can give them individual attention, which is often a problem for institutions that are understaffed or have a modest budget; however, investing in assistive technology can increase their level of independence and decrease the need for one-on-one time—it does not eliminate the need for special ed teachers completely, but it certainly reduces the strain. Let’s see how.
Different solutions for different problems
Personalization is one of the greatest keywords of today’s technology: there is a device or app for every need and you can customize your tech just the way you like it. Assistive technology is one of the fields that need personalization the most: not only there are several conditions that can affect different areas of learning, but the same disability can manifest in different ways. No two students are the same and a solution that works for one may not be ideal for another.
One might be struggling with lessons and assignments because of impaired vision: text-to-speech technology and Braille embossers enable students to keep up with reading and writing tasks even with little or no eyesight.
Another might suffer from a neurological condition that affects speech and have difficulties answering questions and voicing opinions: these students can express themselves in writing and pictures thanks to apps that help them express concepts through the written word or a library of images to choose from.
Others yet might have learning disabilities such as dyslexia or dyscalculia that make basic reading, writing and arithmetic an obstacle: this is where educational apps to aid understanding come in and text-to-speech makes a reappearance as a tool for students whose difficulties lie in interpreting text rather than in seeing it.
If a student is easily distracted or overwhelmed, technology can also help reduce or eliminate the extraneous input that makes it harder for them to focus, from blocking videos and ads to help concentrate on the text alone, to muffling noise if the student needs a degree of isolation from the rest of the class to succeed.
Speaking of isolation, if a student’s issues are of a social more than cognitive nature, as is the case with many people with autism, interactive technology can sometimes engage them more than a traditional lecture and even robots, with their predictable responses and their growing ability to mimic human emotions, can be helpful to foster connections with neurotypical society.
Even students whose health makes them unable to attend school at all can benefit from education technology: a telepresence robot can be a way to go to school from a distance in the case of immune system diseases and other conditions that require complete seclusion at home or in a hospital room.
A level playing field
The teacher’s role in a technology-assisted classroom that caters to special needs students is not just to master assistive technology in order to help students use it correctly, but also to introduce the rest of the class to the concept of technology as an aid to their classmates with disabilities in the smoothest way possible: additional help, whether it comes in the form of EdTech or of less futuristic solutions such as extra time to complete tasks, simplified assignments, or permission to consult notes and textbooks, should not be seen as an unfair privilege that other students may come to resent, but as a way to give everyone an equal chance to succeed academically and socially.
Using and presenting technological aids for disabled students appropriately is essential for a healthy classroom dynamic that prevents bullying and shows that they are being helped, not coddled. EdTech is a compensation tool that makes special needs students begin the race to education at the same starting line as everyone else and does not eliminate the need for hard work on their part: the sooner the entire class group understands that, the better the quality of life for students with disabilities will be.
Can you see all the benefits EdTech could have in Special Education? Let us know your opinion by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org!