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Assistive Technology in Special Education

One of the hottest topics in education is inclusivity. Particularly in the case of students with disabilities, creating inclusive classrooms has become essential. The idea of a disability consists of an array of characteristics. As written in ProCare Therapy, “[k]ids with disabilities may have trouble in different areas. This could be in reading, writing, or math. Other kids may have difficulty hearing, seeing, listening in a classroom, or communicating with others. Physical, motor, and mobility limitations may also impact the way a child is able to work in a classroom.”

More and more, teachers — not only those focused on special needs — are encouraged to learn about tools that foster an environment where learners feel seen and included. Programs such as Northern Kentucky University’s online Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) – Teacher as Leader in Moderate and Severe Disabilities (MSD) program offer the flexibility for working professionals to enhance their knowledge in that area.

Courses like Assistive Technology in the Classroom teach educators to evaluate and meet their students’ specific needs with appropriate assistive technologies, which are “any feature that helps students boost their skills and achieve targets in class,” according to Soliant. “It can be a tool that supports students with visual impairments, hearing challenges, speech problems, and mobility difficulties. In the special education classroom, students have a wide range of learning obstacles, and every bit of help benefits them.”

Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text

These technologies have become quite common not only in education but also in business. They can be phone and computer apps, software and stand-alone devices. In the classroom, they aid children with difficulty concentrating, writing (such as dyslexia or dysgraphia) or hearing. As the names suggest, they can be a bridge between text and speech and are useful for students who are neurodivergent and non-verbal, such as some with diagnoses of autism and Down syndrome.

Screen Readers

Like the previous tools, screen readers support students with visual impairments. They can convert text on a laptop or phone into audio or even braille, so teachers don’t have to create separate materials. Many online newspapers, websites and other important educational sources also use hashtags to describe illustrative images. Combining these sources with screen readers can provide a richer experience for students.

Voice Assistants

The most widely known voice assistant technologies are Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, but various tools can help students with tasks big and small. For example, they can benefit neurodivergent students who feel overwhelmed when looking for specific information but can help all (including teachers) to be more organized and keep time.

As technology advances, more tools become available to make classrooms more inclusive. “According to EdTech, the use of classroom technology increased by 55% in the year 2016,” notes ProCare Therapy. “From laptops in the classroom to education based apps, surveyed teachers expressed a willingness to embrace technological advancements in order to benefit student learning.”

The source also notes that the goal of assistive technology is not to replace teachers but to make students with disabilities more independent “while providing them with access to the same level of learning as their peers,” a goal every teacher should strive to achieve.

Northern Kentucky University’s online MAEd – Teacher Leader – MSD program gives graduates the skills to use technology to their advantage in the classroom and improve learning outcomes.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s online MAEd – Teacher Leader – MSD program.

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