Assistive Technology (AT) is a very diverse term that covers a vast array of technologies designed to help enhance the classroom experience for students with special needs. AT can be anything that helps with rehabilitation, adaptation, and synthesis for students. By this, I mean that AT can be technologies designed to improve skills (ex. help their eyes track across a page at the same time), provide modifications for actions/skills simply not in their tool-box (ex. speech software for non-verbal students), and can simply provide scaffolding (ex. prompted questions). It is absolutely incredible what has been developed for students that covers a vast spectrum of needs.
AT has really begun to make the 100% inclusion philosophy become possible. Now, just because a student is non-verbal, or has a low range of motion, they are not limited to isolated education. I was most intrigued by the technology that allows a student with almost no bodily control to answer a pre-recorded question. In cases like this, I really like how even their simple participation in discussions is possible, and encouraged.
It is so important for every educator to have some innate knowledge about various AT’s and their possible uses. Special Education teachers and Para-Professionals are not the only ones who should be able to help special needs students. By having even a basic awareness, every teacher should be able to find ways to include every single student in some way. This will help to ensure that every student has a place in the classroom, and is not simply left feeling like an outsider.
So….how do we get AT?
It is really important that you communicate with your principle, corresponding Para-Professionals, and Special Education teachers in regard to AT. Collaboration is always a great tool to figure out options for AT, and the funding necessary to acquire it. Aside of these obvious resources, there are organizations that are well-equipped and excited to help. For example, in Colorado, SWAAC (Statewide Assistive Technolgy, Augmetative and Alternative Communication) is who you need to talk to. They help to provide AT and educate teachers on how to implement them in the classroom.
Overall, AT is just another way that technology can help to create a diverse classroom. The technology that we have today is pretty incredible, and it is important that we are able to embrace, and utilize, it as educators. Technology helps to enhance learning of traditional students, and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be utilized in the exact same way for students will special needs students.
Now, I think the most important takeaway from this week, is that students with special needs are deserving of the same rights and respect as every other person! It seems pretty simple, but it’s also extremely important to emphasize. Just because students need AT, doesn’t mean that they are undeserving of being treated as the autonomous person that they are. No matter what.