Parents and educators need to have a common vision which is to see their children live a healthy, balanced and an independent life wherein they are able to contribute meaningfully to society. The field of academics has a variety of challenges especially for our students with Learning Disabilities who may feel overwhelmed with academic expectations.
Students can use these technologies to assist them in their academic work. However, it may not eliminate their challenges totally but may improve the situation, improve academic grades and foster positive self-esteem. We should also check with the learner his or her experience, adaptability and ease of using these tools. These technologies can also be integrated in their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) to meet their specific goals. However, integration of these tools in the curriculum and as well as its use during assessments also depends upon the plan and strategies set by the school.
The Goal of Quality Education
Students need to be engaged in academic work that brings meaning and relevance to their life. We need to create happy, well-balanced and confident learners. Learning disability can affect a learner’s life beyond the field of academics and may affect relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Interpersonal skills, team work, problem-solving, out of the box thinking, decision making, being able to manage finances independently and accurately are the skills required beyond the classroom.
The Arena of Socio-Cultural and Economic Opportunities
Technology provides assistance to our learners in everyday aspects of living such as communication, shopping, travel, socializing and completing daily routines. We are living in a digital age where our students are networking by using accessible and user friendly technologies, social media and apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter to showcase their voices, ideas, creativity and talent.
Some of the students from the school that I am working with have taken up entrepreneurship, baking, music, art, design, photography, engagement in an NGO and are part of youth platforms. They have also been part of campaigns like ‘Letters of Hope’ where they have reached out to students across the country for a campaign on suicide prevention, part of a panel discussion on ‘Anti-Bullying –Be kind online’. Students are also discussing various issues through the school’s Minds Matter— mental health awareness program where they are able to speak up, empathize and contribute. Internship opportunities are also used to get a glimpse of the work-life scenario.
Any kind of technology needs to be used mindfully and responsibly. The need of the hour is to ensure that all students have access to these technologies and are exposed to new digital innovations. Each learner is bestowed with a special skill set and has the potential to create a niche in society and build a bright future for themselves.
With greater use and assistance of technology and digital innovations, students with Learning Disabilities should now be recognized and celebrated as humane and global students of creative ability.
Types of Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia- Language based difficulty with words, sentences or paragraphs
Dysgraphia– Difficulty in writing
Dyscalculia- Difficulty in grasping and solving math concepts
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities- Problems with visual-spatial and organization
Auditory and Visual Processing Disorder- Difficulty in understanding language despite normal hearing and vision. Assistive technologies can be used on a wide range of devices such as computers, laptops, I-pad and the mobile phones.
Technological Tools that benefit students with Learning Disabilities
Audio Books: Learners who find reading difficult can make use of audio books.
Software programs for math: Provides assistance with visual and audio support for math concepts.
Graphic organizer Tools: Helps in organizing data.
Optical Character Recognition Software: Allows the user to scan printed material into a computer. The scanned text can then be read aloud.
Text to speech and speech to text Software: It is extremely beneficial for learners who face language based challenges.
Word prediction Tools: Gives the user choice and range of words to choose from.
Proof reading programs: Helps to eliminate errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Talking Calculator: Helps to read numbers and symbols so the user is able to verify the keys.
Tape recorders: Learners are able to listen to the explanation at his or her own pace.