With thanks to Cara Delany:
Teaching With Tech: The Use of Technology in Special Education
With a considerable number of K-12 students in special education programs throughout the U.S., teachers have found that the traditional use of textbooks and worksheets is often ineffective. The use of assistive technology – computer software, communication devices and tablets – is a new and innovative trend among educators. Let’s explore what technologies are being used in special education classrooms and how they work.
Students in Need: 8.4%
– Percentage of students 6 to 21 who receive special education services: 7 million
– Students with disabilities in U.S. public schools: 62.7%
– Percentage of U.S. students with special needs who graduate high school: 30%
– Increase in special education programs over the past decade
Percentage of students with specific disabilities
– Hearing or visual impairment – 2%
– Mental retardation – 10%
– Speech or language impairments – 21%
– Emotional disorders – 8%
– Specific learning disabilities* – 51%
– Other – 8%
– *Can include specific learning impairments in reading, math and other subjects.
The Products – Teachers who work with students with special needs can find devices and software geared toward particular disabilities. Many of these products can be funded by school programs, teachers or paid for using private insurance.
iPad: How it’s used:
With a durable touchscreen, iPads can be used for visual learning, reading and video watching. Students can interact with programs via web access.
Cost: $499-$929 each
NOVA Chat: How it’s used: Perfect for text-to-speech programs, which are ideal for students with reading disabilities. Text can be read aloud, and speech can be converted to text. Cost: $2,300-$3,300/class
DynaVox xPress: How it’s used: This is another communication device that helps students with reading fluency and natural speech. It utilizes a mix of text and pictures to convey language to students, all while increasing a student’s vocabulary.
Maestro: How it’s used: This product helps students with literacy, communication and social skills. It gives students and teachers access to various eBooks and software that breaks down step-by-step processes for different subjects, including math, vocabulary and everyday life.
Read 180: How it’s used: For students with reading disabilities, this software creates an individualized program for each student, giving each child goals of fluency and tracking progress.
Cost: $29.95 \\
MangoMon: How it’s used: Using interactive lessons, this software offers reading and mathematics lessons that give students individual attention and education plans. It also gives parents access to student progress.
Cost: Free for many educators
Photo Vocabulary: How it’s used: Using simple activities, audio pronunciation and vocabulary flash cards, this software strengthens communication skills and fluency of students with disabilities.
Cost: Generally funded through school
It’s Already Working
Schools across the U.S. have already seen success stories regarding the use of technology in special education programs. Here are some that prove just how helpful – even life-changing – technology can be.
Utilizing simulation programs on class computers in a special education classroom, all students (including a blind student, a student with impaired speech and one with ADHD) were able to communicate with one another virtually. This strengthened their sense of fellowship, as well as their self-confidence. Without the special communication software provided, each student would have felt isolated from the others and been unable to interact.
New Castle, Del.
A special needs school took advantage of a program to digitize lessons. Since many students couldn’t write or call out answers, they were able with the software to choose their answers via keyboard devices. And even those who could not use a keyboard were able to select answers using “eye gaze,” a program that allows students to choose the answer as a picture on the screen just by staring at it for three seconds. With these programs and devices, all students were able to complete lessons and move on to higher grades.
Kansas City, Mo.
A public school where 10% of students were in special education classes joined a program that created individualized education plans for each special needs student. Because of the wide range of devices and software available for students in special education classes, the students’ teacher was able to cater to each child’s specific learning needs. Though each student was on his or her own path, their teacher used computers to create a game out of the students’ progress reports. Even students with special needs like a little competition; and it pushed the students to work harder and be more successful.
Schools in Need
Truth is, the need for special education teachers is growing, but the number of people signing up for the certificate isn’t. To be successful both in and beyond school, students with special needs require teachers who care enough and will use the devices available to personalize a progressive education plan for them.
$53,220 – Average salary of a special education teacher
473,000 – Number of currently employed special education teachers in the U.S.
554,900 – Projected number of needed special education teachers in 2018