(click the link above to download the Reading Rockets PDF about ways to use the Ipad for children with special needs. Go Talk image via bknittle’s flickr stream; assorted device images via Rain Rabbit’s flickr stream)
Reading Rockets’ latest newsletter got me thinking about Assistive Technology (AT). In Developmental Variations class last semester I learned about a tussle currently raging in the field of special education over whether or not the IPad constitutes Assistive Technology…
On the pros side of the equation, clearly it has some distinct advantages over devices that are developed and sold specifically for individuals with disabilities.
- I was surprised to learn that the Ipad—which I consider quite a ritzy piece of hardware—is cheaper, many thousands of dollars cheaper than some of the common devices discussed in my classes.
- It’s also an appealing option for some parents, children, teachers and of course users since it is discreet and doesn’t set the child or adult apart from the rest of the device-using population.
- The ipad can even become an all-in-one device for some, thanks to the ever-expanding roster of communication, information, and education apps created for this one platform.
So where’s the rub? Apparently, there is some controversy over using special ed funding to provide Ipads to individuals because of these advantages.
- One of the concerns is that an Ipad is a hot item and could put child users and other potentially-vulnerable individuals in danger of thugs and thieves, say if they’re riding public transport or unsupervised but within reach of the neighborhood bully.
- Some of the more-cynical (been around the related-services and CSE-committee block) people in my class also pointed out that the real pressure to keep the Ipad from entering this market is coming from the companies and service-providers already in it, which is to be expected.
- The “concern” that really gets my goat, though, is that it could be used by individuals with disabilities for “non-assistive” purposes (fear being that the cool and desirable Ipad is more likely to incite abuse of the system than less-neat devices).
The Go Talk device above gives an idea of what an AT device might look like, but I selected it somewhat randomly based on what was available online. Comparing the Ipad to some of the competition with an outsider’s eye (which to be frank means in terms of looks), it does seem kind of like there’s no competition. I will say that the teachers and specialists who came in to talk to us about AT and assisted communication are crazy about these plain-looking bits of plastic, and their experience has been that these products have something very special to offer and can make a tremendous difference in kids’ classroom and home experience. Of course their value to users is not as easy to see on the surface (or as pleasing to the eye), since AT-manufacturers probably don’t spend a fraction of the time or money that Apple does on product appearance. They don’t have to, since their AT products are actually needed and their saleability therefore doesn’t require the company to manufacture a perceived need.
The whole debate plus the possibilities of this field piqued my interest. Something to keep learning about in the years to come, especially once I start student teaching in August and have a chance to see these different devices in action.
Oh and these two apps mentioned in the newsletter caught my eye…
The iPad has apps that combine the theory behind video modeling with the structure of a social story. Parents are able to easily create social stories using pictures that are connected to the child’s life to demonstrate a desired behavior. Model Me Kids and iCommunicate are two of many apps that are available to use the iPad to deliver the social story.