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Assistive technologies

Teaching strategies

Assistive technologies

an introductory guide for teachers and support staff

Assistive technologies – technologies that help students with special needs to overcome barriers to participate in educational activities.

Young student with disability engaging with assistive technology.

Assistive technologies allow people with disabilities to perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to do. They reduce barriers to learning and inclusion by providing support of some kind. For many students, assistive technologies are crucial to their educational experience. Technologies of this kind are found in both mainstream classrooms and special needs’ schools. For example, a student with hearing difficulties might wear an earpiece that is wirelessly connected to a lapel microphone worn by the teacher. This allows the student to overcome their disability and to fully engage in all learning activities. Without this simple and cheap technology, the student is likely to miss some of what the teacher says; over thousands of lessons, this potentially results in lower levels of achievement.

Assistive technologies allow people with disabilities to perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to do. They reduce barriers to learning and inclusion by providing support of some kind.

Assistive technologies come in many forms, including:

  • aids for daily living (such as modified utensils)
  • alternative and augmented communication devices (such as flash cards)
  • mobility aids (such as wheelchairs)
  • seating and positioning equipment (such as adjustable desks)
  • computer access aids (such as enlarged keyboards)
  • environmental controls (such as headphones)
  • home, vehicle, workplace and school modifications
  • prosthetics
  • orthodontics
  • sensory aids (such as fidget toys)
  • recreation devices (such as iPads)
  • software for games and online tasks.

A major benefit of assistive technologies is that they provide the user with a higher degree of independence than they could otherwise achieve on their own. This means less reliance on adults, improved confidence and self-esteem and greater access to the school (and wider) community.

Teaches are not expected to be experts in assistive technologies. However, teachers should:

  • ensure that any student devices are in safe working order
  • ensure that any student devices are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • ensure that any student devices are charged, connected and tested to be ready for use
  • ensure that any student devices are cleaned regularly for hygienic purposes
  • ensure that all staff are trained in how to use any student devices (such as manual handling training for staff using hoists and/or lifting students in and out of wheelchairs)
  • ensure that first aid equipment is stocked and easy to locate
  • keep up to date with new and emerging technologies in order to provide recommendations
  • provide feedback to parents, students, specialist staff and managers
  • speak with stakeholders regularly about how to best utilise any student devices
  • add the device to the student’s independent education plan (IEP) and individual behaviour plan (IBP)
  • ensure there are contingencies in place for potential issues (such as dead batteries)
  • treat assistive technologies like all teaching strategies: think about they can be most effectively used, have rules and expectations, structures, routines and keep an eye out for improvements
  • quietly check-in with the student using the assistive technology on a regular basis for feedback and to make adjustments.

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.

ADAM GREEN

Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Teaching Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners. Amazon #1 best seller in the category of Classroom Management.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.

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