Assistive Technology

Through the reading of a couple articles in the ISTE website journal Learning and Leading with Technology I have learned a great deal about the use Assistive Technology for students with disabilities. Assistive Technology (AT) is defined by Congress in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Section 602-1 (1990) as “any item, piece of equipment or product, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of children with disabilities (9/10 2013, p.10) There are a range of AT options that help students read, write, organize ideas, and communicate that allow them to better meet and even master the Common Core State Standards and ISTE’s standards that before seemed difficult or impossible.
For students who struggle with writing voice diction apps and voice recognition technology allows them to use their computers, tablets, and even smart phones take notes, write papers, send emails, and even submit assignments directly to the teacher. The student can simply talk to their device and have their words put to paper overcoming the basic struggles of writing and typing.
Gayl Bowser, an independent consultant who focuses on the integration of technology into the educational programs for students with disabilities, believes that now is an important time to focus on implementing AT in school across America. Bowser states that students with disabilities and those who struggle in school would be able to meet the Common Core State Standards if they had access to technology to help them demonstrate what they know. Many students feel frustrated because of their restrictions, however if these barriers were lifted, these students would excel in areas they formerly found difficult.
In the article I Have Something to Stay by Marla Runyan, communication disorder specialist, the new app Proloquo2Go (P2G) is described. This AT app produced by Assistive-Ware allows students with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, developmental disabilities, and apraxia of speech to speak through their technology. Students can either type sentences or choose from a variety of pictures to form sentences allowing them to verbally communicate with others. Personally, I think that this type of AT is the most interesting. Before this app and others like it, students who were not able to speak were often shut off from the rest of the world. However with this app, not only can they communicate with other students, teachers, and peers, they can succeed better in school and the real world. In Runyan’s article, she gives an example of one sixth grade boy who is motivated to talk but can only speak a couple words. After using P2G for the first time, the boy enthusiastically went around his classrooms asking his teachers and peers which football team they were cheering for in the upcoming big game. This shows that students cannot only function better within the academic world, but can also thrive in their personal life as well.
Having access to apps like Proloquo2Go allows students to have a completely new learning and education experience. Students will be able to ask questions, participate in class, and have discussions with other students about in class topics. These type of apps will also help students with disabilities communicate with students who do not have disabilities making them feel more part of the student bodies unlike before where they were for the most part separated. By becoming more informed on these apps through our teacher preparation courses, we as future teachers will be able to work better with this technology and disabled students to succeed in school.

Bowser, Gayl. (2013). Assistive Technology in the Digital Age. Learning and Leading in Technology, September/October, page 10.
Runyan, Marla. (2011). ‘I Have Something to Say’ Learning and Leading in Technology, August, page 32.


About caitlineichlin

History major at California State University San Marcos and aspiring high school history teacher.
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3 Responses to Assistive Technology

  1. Jessica says:

    Such insightful reviews! While reading the section about the AT sound output devices, P2G, it reminded me of a similar program that we use at work called TouchChat. I didn’t know about P2G, but TouchChat is an application that can cost hundreds of dollars, in addition to an already pricey iPad. How as a teacher would you advocate the need to spend hundreds of dollars on one device? Would you be satisfied with one iPad per class? Or would you need to request more than one?

    Also, studies have found that those using sound output devices are not specifically using linguistic creativity, but reciting the same phrases. Usually this is because students are rewarded when they push a button, therefore they push the same button each time . How would you decrease this expected communication in order to promote linguistic creativity?

    • Jessica,

      Thank you for your awesome feel bad and follow up questions. To address your first question about the need to spend a large amount of money I, as a teacher, would recommend using the P2G because it costs significantly less than TouchChat and other applications like it. I would also request one iPad per student, as opposed to one iPad per class. I have noticed that in many schools, each student receives an iPad that they can take home and preform homework assignments on, therefore I would expect nothing less for my students.

      To address your second question on how to promote linguistic creativity, I would ask questions that would demand a creative response. Therefore each question would have to be answered differently. If the student was using the same phrase over and over again, I would ask them follow up questions like “Why?” or “Can you elaborate?” The questions would vary in difficulty based on each student’s intellectual level of course.

      Thanks again! Hope my answers were sufficient!

  2. mgbruno55 says:

    Wow that is a really fascinating possibility for students with special needs! I work with developmentally disabled children at Teri Inc. and have experienced first hand how many students face challenges with communication. If there was any kind of technology that could allow non-verbal students to communicate their thoughts that would be an invaluable asset to teachers dealing with special needs students. I have actually worked with several children and young adults who use the “I have something to say” app and it is a very functional tool. The only problem is some students who are more severely disabled are not able to use the app correctly because it does require some dexterity and skill with an ipad and many developmentally disabled children have very poor motor skills or have a very hard time comprehending text quickly. So my personal opinion is that it can be useful but only for students who are relatively high functioning and are capable of operating the app independently. Otherwise it just turns into a jumbled mess of words that is impossible to decipher. But AT in generally is a very promising resource for the future and as we develop better AT systems I think that it will become even more practical for helping severely disabled students.

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