As an educator, meeting the needs of every child in your class is your primary goal, and inclusion within the classroom means that these needs can vary significantly among your students. For this reason, it is important to have multiple tools at your disposal that can be used to promote independence and learning. As you plan your classroom interventions this year, keep these strategies in mind for using assistive technology to reach every student in your room.
Know What Assistive Technology Is Available
It often comes as a surprise to teachers that the field of assistive technology is very broad. Assistive devices can be as technological as learning software designed for children with disabilities or as simple as a removable gripper cuff. As a general rule, it is best to begin with the simplest option available since that tends to help bolster a student’s independence without causing them to become dependent upon the device.
Assess Needs and Abilities
At the beginning of the school year, the first several weeks are usually spent getting to know your students and performing assessments. During this period, observe your students to identify undiagnosed challenges such as a weak grip that can interfere with their ability to succeed in the classroom. In some instances, students may already be identified as having a health condition such as cerebral palsy that poses challenges in the classroom, which can allow you to plan ahead for effective interventions.
Meet With Other Caregivers
When a child already has a known disability, it is likely that they have already been receiving therapy from therapists, caregivers and other members of their medical team. Talking to these caregivers provides insight into potential assistive devices that are already effectively being used. Use these suggestions as a starting point for developing your learning plan for that student since they have already been shown to be helpful.
It is also important to make sure that any assistive devices you use in the classroom promote independence. For example, weak grip is one challenge that many students face that can interfere with their ability to perform basic daily tasks in the classroom such as holding a pencil or carrying a cup. While it may be tempting to provide hand-over-hand assistance or assign another student to help them carry objects, these strategies merely delay progress. In this type of situation, providing support with a silicon cuff provides just enough assistance that a student can complete their daily tasks with confidence and independence.
Encourage Continuity at Home
The best assistive technology is flexible enough to be used in every setting. Ideally, your students should be able to move seamlessly from school to home using their assistive devices so that their learning is reinforced. During parent-teacher conferences, talk about the items you use in the classroom, and try to make sure parents have the same things at home. Therapists and other caregivers should also be involved in these conferences so that continuity is maintained from school to home.
Implementing interventions in a classroom setting is made easier with advances in assistive technology. Today, you have a wide range of devices from which to choose to enhance your lessons while promoting greater independence for each student. By understanding what is available and how to use it to increase skills and abilities, you can ensure that each child reaches their full potential under your care.