The iPad has become a revolutionary device in the education system, especially considering it was one of the first consumer devices that, in many cases, people with special needs could use without peripheral accessories. Before the iPad, options included fitting computer monitors with touchscreens, eye scanning devices that enabled navigation, and other adaptation devices created for specific uses.
With the iPad, educators and parents can adjust settings within iOS to optimize the ease of use depending on abilities. In addition, thanks to apps, it is even easier for both children and adults with special needs to use the iPad for communication purposes and as a tool in speech, behavior, and occupational therapies. Teachers have also noted that for students with learning difficulties, an iPad can level the playing field in the classroom, giving every student more opportunities to collaborate.
Parents and educators are aptly aware that students with learning difficulties, and even those without, can benefit from a learning experience tailored to individual strengths. Students that require accommodations are generally placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which focus on a particular student’s needs so that they are ensured an equal chance to succeed in their educational environment. What works best for each student varies greatly; for example, this parent has stated that she feels the popular game Minecraft helped her son with Asperger’s learn to read and write; controversial or not, it is an interesting perspective on how technology can help people learn.
Technology is employed regularly in the education system, and it plays a huge role in special education. The iPad has become a powerful tool for educators thanks to its responsive touchscreen, easy to navigate OS, customizable accessibility features, voice commands, and multimedia options. According to The Wall Street Journal, the iPad is slowly showing that it can also give a voice to those who might not otherwise be able to communicate through conventional means.
Communication and Language
Communication devices are a powerful tool for students that have limited verbal abilities, and systems such as PECS are regularly employed to create a more stimulating visual learning and communication experience. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices pair images with voice prompts, among other features, to assist children and adults with communication. Typical AAC systems, such as those offered by DynaVox, can range in prices from $4,000 to $10,000. Although insurance companies have generally started covering AAC devices, it is typically at 80%, and qualifying is on a case by case basis through private insurance or Medicare.
With the iPad, users can have an AAC communication device with more versatility; all at a lower cost. Educators have also noted that the iPad can help those with disabilities feel comfortable using an AAC device; carrying a low profile device that is recognizable helps users avoid drawing attention to the device.
Proloquo2Go by AssistiveWare is an AAC app priced at $189.99, while a bit pricey, it comes highly recommended, with an average 4 star rating from over 650 reviews. Created with the help of Speech-Language Pathologists, it features over 14,000 symbols, automatic conjugations, word prediction, multi-user support, and more. Vocabularies are also customizable to the user’s particular level of ability, age, and more.
What makes this app different from other communication apps and dedicated communication devices is that it comes with natural speaking voices, rather than computerized voices. Other AAC systems will often allow for someone to record their own voice in lieu of a computerized one, but Proloquo2GO comes with a preinstalled boy and girl voice in both an American and English accent.
Social and Emotional
Developing healthy social and emotional skills is important for every child, and children might sometimes need additional help in this area. The iPad features creative apps that can lend a hand when it comes to building conversation skills and figuring out how to productively handle a range of emotions.
ConversationBuilder by Mobile Education Store LLC for the iPad aims at giving children experience with basic conversations so that they can comfortably communicate with others. The app focuses on social manners such as the right time to say \”hi,\” make introductions, ask questions, change the subject, and more.
Users are able to import personal images to make the conversations customized to the student, and the app offers 160 different types of discussions. Information about the student can also be inputted into the app so that the conversations customize to the student using the app. This app has been highly rated in the App Store for iOS and costs $19.99 at the time of this writing.
If educators and parents are looking to manage behavioral issues, the iPad can help reinforce positive behaviors as well keep a log of a student’s interactions throughout the day. Apps that help track behavior can alert parents, educators, therapists, and anyone else the child works with as to what programs are effective, the best intervention methods, and any reoccurring trends.
Behavior Tracker Pro by Marz Consulting Inc is an education app designed for behavior consultants and analysts, behavioral therapists, paraprofessionals, teachers, and parents so that they are able to track any behaviors of a child. Data can be ported into Excel so that a student’s progress can be monitored and tracked, helping discover relevant data. The app enables users to record video so that parents, therapists, and teachers are able to share in better detail any important events, allowing for more accuracy in developing programs that best serve the student.
This app is not designed to be used by children or adults with special needs, but is instead designed for educators, parents, and therapists to better understand behavior patterns of a student and aid them in employing successful programs. It is also effective for keeping data consistent in situations where multiple people work with one student. Behavior Tracker Pro is available in the App Store for iOS for $29.99 at the time of this writing.
Life Skills and Organization
Schedule boards with visual pictures and prompts can help students develop routines and can be highly beneficial to anyone who prefers visual cues. Scheduling out one’s day is an effective tool for anyone and can encourage time management skills and efficiency.
Choiceworks by Bee Visual LLC is a scheduling app that helps children develop routines and lets them see their entire day in one shot. This way, students are able to accomplish goals and can move on to the next one without hesitation. Using images and timers, Choiceworks reminds the user that they must remain on task and encourages patience.
This app even helps with emotional development through helpful reminders such as, “when I am upset, I can get help or take a break, then I can watch a DVD or play a game.” This helps guide the user through their emotions, reminding them of productive ways to handle a situation, while providing positive reinforcement.
The uses for an iPad in the education system are seemingly countless and could help teachers in the classroom give every student the individualized structure they need to be comfortable in school. Advancements in iPad technology as well as educational apps will undoubtedly get better and, hopefully, aid both students and teachers in IEPs, while lowering the cost of assistive devices.