Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An iPAD for My Special Needs Child?

Think about it.  Assistive technology is a large part of the educational journey of a child with an IEP.  More and more applications are being created to assist students with low vision or blindness, autism, speech delays, fine motor development delays, behavior issues, deafness, and general learning disabilities.  To determine if an iPAD may be in the cards for your child, seek assistance from an advocate or another person you trust to act on behalf of your child.  Research is always a good way to start.  Simply google "iPAD use for special education students" and see where it takes you.

Most people get a bit hung up on the negatives that could result if such a device is used to entertain.  The hard truth to that perspective is that our schools allow the use of technology devices to entertain now.  Technology devices are entertaining by nature as they are highly engaging and interactive.  The key is to understand that they are simply a different teaching and learning modality.  In addition, the device, itself, can only be used in ways that fit the applications loaded to the device.

Some truly neat ways schools are using this assistive technology include teaching pre-literacy skills.  A child can trace the letter or number with his/her finger rather than use a crayon or marker.  Older children can use this device to learn math facts without the traditional flashcards.  This device is highly communicative and can be used in a variety of ways in speech therapy.  The possibilities are unlimited at this time.  The most important consideration is the needs of the IEP child.  Rather than make the child fit the technology, ensure the technology fits the child.

As the mother of a daughter with an IEP for low vision, it is critical that technology be a staple piece of the IEP and the education of my daughter.  Looking ahead is also important.  Decisions cannot be made, often, for simply the time at hand.  What will be needed a few years down the road?  How do we begin to plan for that when it comes to assistive technology?  If the school goes a direction with technology, what does this mean for my child?

Ask about assistive technology.  It is extremely uncommon (I cannot think of any reason) for an IEP to not have the "assistive technology" box marked.  As our society becomes more global, our IEP children will have to be exposed to a level that is appropriate for them.  As of yet, due to the newness of much technology (i.e. iPAD), there is no research on the effectiveness of the iPAD as an educational tool.  As with any technology device, there are positives and drawbacks.  So far, the positives far outweigh the drawbacks.  Check it out for your child.

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