Computers and educational technology can be powerful tools for assisting children with special needs and disabilities. Computers can help children with attention deficit disorders focus more effectively on their learning tasks and can also assist autistic children by improving their communications and interactions with peers as they use computers together. This topic became very important to me when my cousin was born deaf. He is only three now but the assistive technology that awaits him during his educational career are very promising.
Assistive technology includes adaptive tools that help students with disabilities to learn and perform tasks better in their daily life (Kauchak, Eggen, Carter, page 390). Adaptations to computers can assist children who have severe physical impairments or those who cannot interact with a standard computer unless certain adaptations have been made.
Adaptations to computer input devices include hardware options like voice-controlled devices, trackballs, touch screens and adapted keyboards can assist children with special physical needs and make computers and technology more accessible to them. Blind or visually impaired children can use voice activated machines or special Braille keyboards to input information into computers. There are computers and special equipment designed to assist deaf learners as well; captioned video with subtitles helps deaf children follow along with the rest of the class while watching educational videos, and when teachers incorporate hypermedia presentations into their lessons like Powerpoint, deaf children can read along or review the material at another time if needed.
Adaptations for output devices include computers that can translate speech into text so that a child who cannot type or write can dictate an assignment to the computer and the computer will transfer the speech into a text document that the student can print out and hand into the teacher just like their fellow classmates...
References: Kauchak, Donald; Eggen, Paul; Carter, Candace (2002) Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
Henniger, Michael L. (1999) Teaching Young Children, An Introduction. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
Alaska State School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Anchorage School District
Web Site: www.asdk12.org/parents/choices/sped7.asp
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