Technology has transformed the world. In the realm of education, devices and e-learning technologies enable students with special needs to take greater ownership of their learning experience. These options empower them to practice material outside the classroom, which is an important factor in retaining knowledge, especially when regular attendance proves to be problematic.
Educators benefit from embracing the use of computers and tablets with all students. However, members of the special education team must do so to fully include every student and immerse them in the environment they need to do their best. This is how e-learning technology tools improve the special education sector when educators integrate them into the classroom.
Edtech gives students with physical disabilities a voice
Imagine a third grader with cerebral palsy who is completely nonverbal. How can they demonstrate mastery of concepts like composing a complete sentence if their tiny hands can't grasp a pencil to write? Recently, one such student demonstrated her proficiency in this skill by using a Samsung Galaxy tablet.
Technology benefits students with a variety of physical disabilities. Students who cannot speak can use devices to communicate clearly with teachers — as well as their peers. Often, such children struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness due to their inability to talk to friends. The use of tablets creates a bridge, helping them connect with others. It also enables these students to participate in collaborative activities with others. Research indicates peer-to-peer learning aids in the development of higher-level thinking skills, self-management and leadership.
Such use also teaches mainstream students the value of inclusivity. The best way to understand the unique challenges children with special needs face is through interacting with them. When kids listen to the first-hand experiences of those with disabilities, they develop empathy and a greater appreciation for others.
Read more: 4 Tips for using accessibility features to promote inclusion
Edtech helps alleviate attendance issues
Daily attendance is vital for the continuity of the educational experience. Students who regularly miss school often struggle to catch up on key concepts their peers already mastered. This leads to increased anxiety and frustration, especially in those with learning disabilities who already work harder to learn the material.
Unfortunately, attending various doctor and specialist appointments means missing class time. Such professionals rarely hold office hours on evenings and weekends, meaning parents must pull their children out during the school day. Students with juvenile idiopathic arthritis or spina bifida, for example, may need to attend regular physical therapy sessions to retain their mobility. Those battling severe depression or anxiety may need inpatient care at times to ensure their safety.
Online classes free students from having to attend school during specified hours, permitting them to work on their lessons from waiting rooms or the comfort of their homes. Technology enables children with physical issues to attend needed specialist appointments, some of which may require cross-country travel to attend. It allows those with emotional difficulties to stay home after a trying therapy appointment instead of returning to the classroom, where inadvertent comments by peers might trigger outbursts.
Edtech allows students to pace their work
Many children with learning disabilities need additional time to complete essays and projects. While such accommodations are outlined in their individualized education plan, implementing these modifications can prove tricky in practice. Mainstream classroom educators must strike a balance between pushing gifted students who need a more challenging pace and the needs of special education students who struggle to grasp the material.
Technology frees kids from the need for direct teacher involvement in mastering concepts. They can repeat quizzes as often as need be to fully understand the answers they got wrong. Doing so on a laptop or tablet lets their classmates move on to other assignments.
Using devices to individualize learning eases the anxiety special education students feel when they inhibit the learning process of others. As a result, they develop healthier attitudes toward school overall. They're less likely to falsely claim they've grasped the information presented to keep up with others, and they may end up feeling more motivated and confident overall.
Edtech expands access to specialty services
Budgetary constraints make hiring specialists like speech-language pathologists and school psychologists difficult or impossible in some districts. Technology allows schools to offer such services on an as-needed basis through the wonders of telemedicine.
Students report to a special classroom or office the way they normally would to see such a professional. However, instead of meeting face-to-face with their provider, they log into a computer. The therapist and their charge meet via the screen. Using these services frees schools to pair troubled students with psychologists and other professionals when they may not have the resources to pay a full-time salary for one.
Edtech encourages parental partnerships
Parents play an important role in the longitudinal educational and behavioral development of their children. Technology allows caregivers to take a more empowered role in helping kids with their studies. A child who completes their homework via a tablet can sit down with an adult and review concepts with them. This gives caregivers greater insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their charge. When they meet with the special education team, they share these developments, encouraging a stronger learning plan overall.
Edtech improves special education in many ways
Education technology offers a host of benefits to all students, but especially those in the special education sector. All educators benefit from learning how to effectively use e-learning and devices to enhance the learning experience for everyone.