Siri, Can Assistive Technology Help Bridge the Gap?

special-ed-image-shutterstock_151796321Most kids today are digital natives, asking Siri for assistance instead of wasting time typing information into a device.  This voice activated software is an example of Assistive Technology that millions of people use every day.

The cool thing is that there are numerous Assistive Technologies that are proven to support the learning and advancement of students diagnosed with dyslexia, learning disabilities, physical or visual challenges, and auditory processing issues. Various forms of assistive technology also benefit students with autism and other health impairments.  Incorporating assistive technology into your child’s learning strategies can not only support learning but help kids feel like leaders.  For instance, a Learning Ally Mentor recently told us that his classmates clamored to share the Quizlet programs that his Mom created to help him study.

Many schools are including Assistive Technology into their programs, but there are lots of programs addressing different  was IEP or 504 plans can be helpful and help these students feel more included with their classmates. Many schools include Assistive Technology in Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s), helping these students feel more included with their classmates.

The federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), and the New Jersey special education regulations that implement IDEA , define Assistive Technology as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.” 20 U.S.C. Section 1401 (1).These same laws provide for “assistive technology service” within an eligible child’s IEP to assist a child with a disability in the “selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.” 20 U.S.C. Section 1401(2).

Modern technology increases the types of assistive technology. Today, assistive technology includes audio books from audio-only to built-in learning supports, dictation technology, text-to-speech technology, word predication and electronic graphic organizers, to name only a few. Technology also makes a variety of computer programs and apps available to meet the unique needs of disabled students. To access assistive technology devices, parents can contact their disabled student’s child study team, case manager, or guidance counselor and request, in writing, an evaluation for assistive technology.

Every state, including New Jersey, has a federally funded assistive technology or accessible educational material program that can provide books in alterative formats, free of charge, to eligible students with disabilities. The state also receives grants to provide informational and training programs for New Jersey educators on the advantages of assistive technology and accessible educational materials in the classroom.  So, your child’s study team should be familiar with the availability and advantages of the use of assistive technology. Many school even staff some form of an assistive technology coordinator.

For questions or help in securing assistive technology for your disabled child, call the Special Education Law Department at McDowell, Posternock, Apell & Detrick at 856-642-6445.