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 assist ive 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 have done. These speech recognition computers can be invaluable to students who have physical disabilities that affect their hand and finger movements. Special Braille printers can also be used to convert a text document into a understandable form of communication for a student so that they can understand the assignment or be able to take a test in their own classroom with out having to leave to take their test in the Special Education classroom.
I feel these technological advances are very important to the future of education and to all the special needs children of today and tomorrow. With equipment such as these, special needs children can stay in their classrooms, all day with their classmates and take advantage of a normal childhood instead of being pulled out of class, segregated from the "normal" children and having to go to the "special" children's classroom where they miss out on valuable educational and social interaction with their peers. The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act, passed in 1988, (Henniger, Michael L. , page 438) ensures that all children with special needs and their families have access to technological resources. Henniger identifies two important reasons for the importance of this law:" Children with special needs spend more time on instructional tasks and have improved self confidence when provided with assist ive technology, and two; that technology helps children with special needs to express themselves more effectively in their communications with others." (Henniger, Michael L. , page 438) Using the internet as a communication tool has revolutionized the way students and instructors can communicate with each other, it has also helped special needs children as well.
Students with special situations may need to be absent from school more often than others. The internet can help children keep in contact with their teachers and classmates and can keep them current on all the lessons and assignments they have missed. When I was in elementary and middle school, we had a classmate who had Cystic Fibrosis and often missed school for long periods of time. The teachers would give the students cards for us to sign and leave a personal message every now and then, but I can't help think of how great it would have been if we could have been able to talk with Andrea on a daily basis to see how she was feeling and to let her know we missed her.
Unfortunately, the technology wasn't around back then and she passed away before she graduated from High School. Special needs children can also talk and "chat" with other special needs children all over the world, they can share experiences and encourage each other to overcome their situations. If teachers incorporate Powerpoint or other hypermedia presentations, they can e-mail these lessons to children who were absent that day. This would benefit special needs children as well as children who missed school on account of sickness or family situations.
Teachers who have access to computer hardware consultants as well as software experts who can assist them with meeting the needs of children with special situations can help their students adapt to a normal classroom environment. These technologies are so important because they prevent a child's disability from becoming and obstacle to learning to their education. REFERENCESKauchak, Donald; Eggen, Paul; Carter, Candace (2002) Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional. Pearson Education, Inc. , Upper Saddle River, New JerseyHenniger, 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: web.