Examples of students using assistive technology

Find out who uses assistive technology in class to participate and engage in learning. Six student examples, covering disabilities like dyslexia, vision impairment, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Example 1: Dyslexia and written communication

Student

  • Drew, aged 12.

Learning needs

  • Drew has a diagnosis of severe dyslexia with dyscalcula and dysgraphia. 
  • He is a reluctant reader and finds handwriting difficult. His written work is messy and often illegible with very poor spelling.
  • During writing time, he often becomes withdrawn. He is self conscious about his difficulties and resists working with the teacher’s aide.
  • He has a history of anxiety and now his school attendance has reduced.
  • He has a good vocabulary and his comprehension skills are meeting national standards.
  • Academic performance in comparison to her peers has been falling steadily.

Learning goals

  • Increase written output.
  • Increase accuracy and complexity writing, improve legibly and move towards conventional spelling.
  • Independently complete written work set by the teacher (revise to enhance detail and description as well as edit for punctuation, spelling and grammar).

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • iPad and literacy support app.

Progress

  • Drew is writing with increased complexity and accuracy. His output has increased significantly.
  • Keyboarding is significantly easier for Drew than writing with a pencil. Word prediction software supports spelling.
  • He is able to read what he has written and complete editing using the visual cues and the auditory feedback with no teacher’s aide support.
  • School attendance has improved since the iPad was allocated.
  • He is now willing to share his work with others and his face shows the sense of achievement he feels.

Example 2: Vision impairment and curriculum access

Student

  • Hayley, aged 13.

Learning needs

  • Hayley has low vision and reads a minimum font size of N20.
  • She is unable to access information from the whiteboard, reading material and worksheets without magnification and relies heavily on her friends, teacher’s aides and her Resource Teacher: Vision to help her keep pace with her learning.
  • Her vision is deteriorating and she is learning to read in braille and use a screen reader.
  • Academically, Hayley is near the top of her class in all subjects but she works for many hours at home to maintain this position. 
  • Her teachers feel that, at 13, independent (and easier) access to a variety of activities is critical so that she can be a lifelong independent learner.

Learning goals

  • Independent access to curriculum materials and tasks (books, worksheets, white board, research materials etc).
  • Hayley can write and edit her work.
  • Hayley can easily share her work with staff.

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • Computer with large screen and screen reading technology (Jaws).
  • Tablet (used as a camera/video camera).
  • Early braille typewriter (on loan), with a dedicated braille device ready to be allocated to her when she needs it.

Progress

  • Hayley is less reliant on others to support her learning and completes most tasks independently at the same time as her peers.
  • She uses her computer with magnification to write and edit her work and to access the school intranet/email where curriculum activities and assignments are loaded.
  • She uses the tablet camera to capture class content (eg, whiteboard, books, worksheets, notes, science experiments/apparatus etc). Photographs can be immediately enlarged on the tablet screen. This also reduces her reliance on others for note taking.
  • Hayley uses screen reading to navigate the computer and speech feedback to support touch typing and editing.

Example 3: Cerebral palsy, global developmental delay and early learning

Child

  • Suzy, aged 6.

Learning needs

  • Suzy has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy with global developmental delay and requires adult assistance for all personal care.
  • Suzy still explores objects by putting them in her mouth and cannot physically use a pencil to make marks on paper.
  • Suzy is completely reliant on an adult to set up all learning activities for her. If she can be engaged initially, she typically only maintains interest in the activity for one to two minutes at the most. It is difficult to re-engage Suzy in any activity as she drops her head and refuses to look.

Learning goals

  • Able to work independently, or work with less support, on tasks that would otherwise need to be set up by the teacher or teacher’s aide and need full one-on-one support.
  • Increase cause and effect and choosing skills with the eventual aim of using these skills to communicate with others.
  • Develop early reading skills (including page turning and reading behaviours).

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • Tablet and early learning software.

Progress

  • Suzy can independently read a talking book and turn pages on the tablet. She touches the screen repeatedly for new sounds and visual effects on each page.
  • Using a high interest cause and affect app, Suzy touched the screen independently six times and laughed and jumped at the responses. She looked at the iPad as she touched the screen. She was engaged in the activity for five-to-ten minutes.
  • She independently made choices. When presented with choices on the iPad, Suzy reached to tap on the one she wanted to hear again five times out of seven.

Case study 4: Hearing impairment and curriculum access

Student

  • Nikau, aged 9.

Learning needs

  • Nikau has moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss.
  • Nikau has difficulty hearing information presented verbally. He is not able to cue into teacher’s voice, requiring touch or visual cues to attend, he is last to follow class instructions and tends to copy his peers.
  • He does not participate in discussions as he cannot follow the topic.
  • When prompted several times in smaller group situation to make a comment, he either has nothing to say or speaks about something irrelevant.

Learning goals

  • Nikau can hear, understand and respond appropriately to teacher instructions.
  • Can fully participate in group and whole-class discussions and activities.

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • Personal FM system (teacher or speaker wears a microphone and receivers are attached to the student’s hearing aid).

Progress

  • Nikau turns to the teacher when he is speaking to the class, moves promptly in response to an instruction and works independently alongside his peers. He completes more work and is less disruptive as he does not need to ask what to do.
  • He raises his hand several times to contribute appropriate responses to questions posed by teacher during a whole class discussion. He looks at teacher or speaker, nods and/or affirms ideas presented by others and makes appropriate comments about the topic under discussion.
  • In a smaller group activity, he appears fully engaged with peers. He talks to his peers about the activity, assists with joint activities (eg, finding resources to complete task) and contributes suggestions and ideas relevant to the topic.

Case study 5: Physical disabilities and written communication

Student

  • Bridget, aged 10.

Learning needs

  • Bridget has multiple challenges caused by cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia.
  • She has difficulty with gross and fine motor activities.
  • Has difficulty maintaining an upright sitting posture because of lack of muscle strength.
  • Writing with a pencil is very limited and tiring.

Learning goals

  • Increase quality, quantity and legibility of written communication.
  • To keep pace with her peers.
  • To increase independence.

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • Laptop computer, specialist writing and reading software.
  • Slope-board to position work at a better angle for her to see and write on.
  • Modified chair with arm-rests and footplate for greater postural stability when writing.

Progress

  • Bridget completes writing tasks more quickly, often at the same time as her classmates.
  • Keyboarding is significantly easier for Bridget than manipulating a pencil.
  • Word prediction software reduces keystrokes so Bridget can write more (and faster) with reduced fatigue.

Case study 6: Learning and communication difficulties and ASD, staying on task and written communication

Student

  • Simon, aged 13.

Learning needs

  • Simon has a history of learning and communication difficulties and a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
  • He has an extreme dislike of writing with a pen and refuses any task that involves writing. If pressed he becomes agitated and disruptive, sometimes becoming very aggressive.
  • All writing tasks are currently adapted to avoid disruptive behaviours (eg, dictating a writing activity to a teacher’s aide).
  • When writing, Simon continually erases work that he is dissatisfied with and completes only a few letters after a 20-minute session.
  • Simon does not make eye contact with others and rarely communicates appropriately.

Learning goals

  • To increase on task behaviour during writing time.
  • Increase quality, quantity and legibility of written communication.
  • To develop communication skills.

Assistive technology given out/funded by the Ministry

  • iPad.

Progress

  • Simon now completes writing tasks with little or no disruption and stays on task for a whole 20-minute session.
  • He likes writing using the onscreen keyboard as forming perfect letters is no longer an issue. He can delete mistakes and edit his own work using inbuilt speech feedback.
  • The quality and quantity of his writing has improved significantly.
  • He has begun to make eye contact and use appropriate greetings.
  • The team have used video modelling (on Simon’s iPad) to develop appropriate behaviours.

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