2014 Trends in Assistive Technology for Schools and Parents

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Along with the dizzying pace of technology adoption in the classroom, we’re excited about the progress in using Assistive Technology for special needs students. More students will benefit from the tech advances if schools and parents are constantly looking for and tracking new tech devices and new ways to use the devices to make sure that special needs children truly maximize their individual learning experience.

Here are four AT trends to follow this year:

Sensory enhancers: Depending on each one’s deficits, children may need to learn differently than their peers. Instead of ABCs and numbers first, a child with language hindrances may benefit from bright pictures or colors to learn new concepts. This is where sensory enhancers come into play. Sensory enhancers may include voice analyzers, augmentative communication tools or speech synthesizers. With the rapid growth of technology in the classroom, these basic tools of assistive technology are seeing great strides. Source: Edweek

Smart AT Implementation: The best way for students to benefit from AT technology is to make sure it is well implemented and both teachers and students are trained on its use. According to an EdWeek blog, using pragmatic methods to choose, train staff and students and evaluating the effectiveness of Assistive Technology is a passion for blogger Jason Carroll. He outlines the five key steps to implementing AT for your school. Jason explains the fives steps in a clear and concise way. Parents can learn from his tips also. The five steps are:

1) Identification of specific AT that’s most needed by students. 2) Preparing teachers and staff with meetings to get them onboard. 3) Training all teachers and staff—both initial training and follow-up training. 4) Implementation. Making sure everyone is following the steps they are assigned. 5) Evaluation of all steps, training and use of AT devices. Determine if devices and learning is working as planned.

You can download Jason Carroll’s AT Implementation guide for free by visiting this website: http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/blog/techniques-and-tips/5-phases-of-effective-technology-implementation/

Screen readers for students with impaired sight: These AT devices can be a game changer according to Matthew Lynch, Ed. D., Huffington Post blogger and author of The Call to Teach. Screen reader technology is slightly different from text-to-speech because it simply informs students of what is on a screen. A student who is blind or struggling to see what is on the screen can benefit from the audio interface screen readers provide. Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-lynch-edd/assistive-technology-a-ne_b_4099477.html

Using Twitter to research AT devices or as an AT tool: Educators are finding that using Twitter is valuable for some students with speech impairments. The social media tool can improve inclusion by making it easier for special needs children to communicate more easily. Dr. Bronwyn Hemsley @BronwynHemsley recently received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council. This research, starting in 2014, will evaluate the impact of training designed to increase the use of Twitter for information exchange among people who have little or no speech and who need information for better inclusion, empowerment and evidence-informed decision-making.

Source: https://www.isaac-online.org/wp-content/uploads/ISAAC-E-News-December-2013-FINAL.pdf

We hope Dr. Hemsley’s research is shared widely so that more students can benefit!

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