When matched to an individual’s needs, assistive technology is a personalised solution that we know delivers practical benefits to improve learning – a simple tool such as a software package or adapted keyboard can make a positive difference to a child's learning experience and level of attainment.
It helps make the curriculum available to all learners with difficulties; it moves the condition away from 'a student's performance is constrained by barriers' to a positive condition of 'providing appropriate adaptations to overcome these barriers'.
- It gives self-confidence, enabling struggling learners to participate in the same activities as other pupils, thereby helping them to be involved and engaged, rather than feeling excluded.
- It enables pupils to reach their potential. For example, a pupil may be orally very creative but have difficulties writing, so a speech-recognition tool would enable that child to produce stories or poetry to the best of their ability; without the tool, the child would struggle.
- It increases the independence of children, reducing their reliance on teachers or assistants for help and providing a means of accomplishing a specific task on their own, thereby raising their self-esteem. For example, using a scanner and text-to-speech software would allow a student who struggles to read, access to printed reading material – worksheets, books, magazines, etc.
Much of the assistive technology developed to support Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia would benefit all students of all ages and abilities. There are many advantages to deploying assistive technology across a school or college, e.g.
- Best value – site licences can be very cost effective and enable an education organisation to have the software on every computer in the school.
- Inclusive – the features would be available to all so the SEN students are not seen as different or needing extra support with the software.
- The expertise on the software would be across the whole school rather than limited to a relatively small number of students.
- Students with dyslexia who may have slipped though the net (undiagnosed) would be supported.
The key categories of assistive technology include:
- Text-to-speech software providing literacy and advanced dictionary support.
- Note-taking software and devices, including recording pens, digital recorders and software for easy annotation.
- Concept-mapping software, a learning and organisation tool using visual maps.
- Speech-recognition software that enables the learner to dictate their work into a computer and turn this into text providing writing support.
- Alternative input devices, such as specialist keyboards, mice, switches and ergonomic solutions.
- Visual-impairment software to support learners through screen magnification, read text out loud and provide access to digital information.