Improving Communicative Skills with Assistive Technology
Help differently-abled students get the most out of learning with assistive technology
A teacher’s primary goal is to ensure that students understand the concepts that they are taking the time to teach. To ensure this, teachers need to bear in mind the varying learning abilities and needs of the students. Every student is unique and differs in their way of learning. While it is easy for some, others may require additional support to complete their daily classroom tasks. For students with special needs, it is important to explore different strategies to improve learning.
Simply put, teachers need to employ different teaching techniques and technologies within the classroom. This has been made easier with the wealth of resources developed over the last ten years such as reading materials, tools, games and most importantly, technology. Technology has helped make communication and learning easier. Assistive technology devices are defined 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 the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. These tools and strategies can be employed to improve the communicative skills of students, and aims at preparing teachers with the information and skills that are essential in the process of integration.
How it Works
Students with disabilities may find it difficult to perform even the simplest tasks. These challenges are due to their impaired physical, cognitive and social emotional skills. Learning is also difficult, as it is a complex task, requiring the coordinated use of various skills.
Assistive technology devices help students overcome their difficulties by focusing and relying on their strengths. It acts as a scaffold to the student’s learning and provides alternative methods for performance. These devices may be accommodations, modifications or adaptations made to the student’s environment, curriculum, methods of teaching or performance and evaluations. Each technology or device is personalized and prescribed while keeping the student’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. For example, students with low vision are given books with enlarged text or screen magnifiers to access web content.
The benefit of a particular assistive technology is largely dependent on its type and function as well as the disability it addresses. The following are some ways that assistive technology has proven useful:
- Use of assistive technology enables individuals with physical disabilities to move around freely and access environments. Availability of wheelchairs, ramps and use of Braille signs and visual announcements improves independence in public places.
- Performing routines and everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, using the bathroom and eating are made easier by using tools such as non-skid mats, grab bars and adapted utensils.
- Subtitles in movies, hearing aids and personal amplifiers support students who are hearing impaired.
- A student with delayed or impaired speech can communicate better when using picture boards, voice output communication devices, communication software and computers.
- Computer software can help students with learning difficulties in many subject areas such as reading, writing and solving math problems.
- Visual aids are supports that give a student with visual difficulties access to information. These include large-print books, books on tape, magnifiers, talking computer software, and Braillers.
Using assistive technology, students can perform and complete their work more quickly and accurately. It improves their active participation in classroom activities and routines and enables them to attain their maximum potential. In turn – they advance their productivity, independence and self-confidence.