Did you ever think that you could control the light and temperature of your house through a computer or cell phone? Technology has given us capabilities we never thought were possible. For students with special needs, technology has become an integral part of treatments and academic accommodations to compensate for their disabilities. Technology has been incorporated into treatments that can go beyond the traditional therapies we know. For example, electroencephalography neurofeedback takes place in a medical doctor’s, psychologist’s or counselor’s office for children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression or sleep disorders. Electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure brainwave activity using a computer. The process is likened to playing a video with one’s brain. The person is shown his flow of brain activity and is encouraged to “change” it. Ultimately, the goal is to help the person to shape his brainwave activity through self-regulation and self-control.
Another form of therapy inspired by scientific advancement is listening programs utilized in speech therapy. One example is the Tomatis audio-therapy program. It is a form of sound-sensory stimulation that transmits noise through the ear in a way that is intended to strengthen the inner muscles. This is in effort to decrease auditory sensory sensitivity. It also improves the child’s ability to take in sound, process it and produce language.
With assistive technology (AT), technology also augments classroom participation and curriculum access. In fact, classroom participation is your child’s right, according to the Public Law 108-364, the Assistive Technology Act.
AT is defined as equipment that helps a student to compensate for his disability. Options include keyboard aids or books on tape. Children with special needs are eligible for an assistive technology evaluation as part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) triennial re-evaluation or if a parent requests one in writing. Assitive technology is addressed in the Modifications and Supplementary Aids and Services in the General Educational Classroom/Special Educational Classroom section of your child’s IEP.
Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI)
CAI is a supplement to traditional classroom instruction. It allows for an animated and interactive demonstration of information as well as immediate feedback. A student using CAI for reading can work on sight words and phonemic skills through a game format. CAI is also effective because it maintains attention and is enjoyable.
Software and Programs
Voice recognition programs, also known as speech recognition, let students with fine-motor difficulties or delays “write” essays by speaking. Popular voice-recognition softwares are Kurzweil and Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Digital Recording of Lectures
Especially for students in high school or college, recording a lecture is easier than ever. Even teachers can use digital recording software to record classroom instruction and share by posting online. Software, such as Soniclear, can be installed on a laptop and used to record classes and convert into notes.
In addition to leisure activities, technology now allows for capabilities that level out the playing field for students with special needs.
Popular Equipment for Children with Disabilities
- Sonar Vision Glasses: These beep when a person with a visual impairment moves closer to objects or people. When the wearer moves away, the beeping sound lessens in pitch.
- FM Hearing Systems: Such systems, including inspire and Nios S H20 + ML15i, are used for students with attention difficulties or auditory processing disorders. The personal listening device filters out background noise and amplifies the teacher’s voice.
- Portable Word Processors: This tool is made up of small and light devices that allow for students to take notes in class with ease. Students can transfer notes to a PowerPoint, Word or Excel document, which can be modified, saved and printed. Popular products include The Forte and NEO 2.
- Keyboard Aids: For individuals who struggle to type with their fingers, there are aids to facilitate typing on a keyboard. Users may also use a foot mouse or a virtually hands-free computer mouse. Modified keyboards are also available.