Examples of students using assistive technology

Read about students using assistive technology in class to participate and engage in learning. These 6 examples cover dyslexia, vision impairment, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Example 1: Student with Dyslexia requiring writing support

Student

Drew, aged 12.

A reluctant reader who finds handwriting difficult. His written work is messy and often illegible with very poor spelling.

During writing time he often becomes withdrawn. He's self-conscious about his difficulties and resists working with the teacher’s aide.

When research work is required he usually works with a peer who can support him with reading and writing demands.

He has a history of anxiety and now his school attendance has reduced.

He has a good vocabulary and his oral comprehension skills are slightly above his chronological age.

Academic performance in comparison to his peers has been falling steadily over the past 4 years.

Drew also has a diagnosis of severe dyslexia with dyscalculia and dysgraphia.

Environment

Drew attends a full primary school in an urban environment.

He's in a shared classroom environment with 82 students between 3 teachers. A teacher aide works with students either in small groups or 1:1 for 12 hours per week.

The teachers work collaboratively, and Drew has great rapport with one in particular.

In the class there are 12 laptops and 2 iPads. The laptops are used on a rotational basis for independent maths and literacy activities, as well as for research. The iPads are mainly for photo/video capturing and occasionally for research.

Drew sometimes struggles with entering passwords on the laptop and navigating to the correct pages.

Task

Drew struggles with both reading and writing but has the most difficulty with writing. Therefore, this is where the focus will be initially.

Primary learning goals that assistive technology may support:

  • to increase the legibility and amount written within a writing session. Currently needs to read it to others for it to be understood and he averages about 1 word per minute.
  • to increase spelling accuracy and complexity of vocabulary. Currently working at Level 1iii — 2 for both.
  • Independently proof-read and revise written work, including enhancing detail and description, editing punctuation, spelling and grammar. Currently will not revise written work without substantial teacher or peer support

Independently complete written tasks. Currently needs prompting and support from an adult or peer.

Tools

Hardware needs to:

  • be portable (to work in variety of spaces)
  • be robust enough for a Year 7/8 class
  • have keyboard for easier text input.

Other possible features include a:

  • camera for capturing whiteboard info
  • touchscreen for easier access
  • microphone for recording voice.

Software needs to:

  • have dictation feature
  • have word prediction for spelling support
  • read written work back to student.

Other possible software features:

  • voice memo software for recording reminders.

Assistive technology chosen to trial

iPad with external keyboard and literacy support app.

Notes

After a 3 week trial, there was enough evidence of success to complete the assistive technology application.

Progress after 6 months

  • 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's able to read what he's 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's now willing to share his work with others and his face shows the sense of achievement he feels. 
Example 2: Student with ASD requiring literacy support

Student

Riley, aged 6, verified ORS Very High.

Non-verbal student diagnosed with Autism and uses an iPad with TouchChat to communicate.

During writing, Riley is passive and doesn’t engage. He's unable to hold a pencil and needs adult support to trace over letters or manipulate objects.

Riley enjoys looking at books and listening to stories; he turns pages and appears to scan the text in the correct direction; he'll look at picture when adult comments on it.

Environment

In a class of 25 students; with additional support:

  • specialist teacher, 1 day a week
  • teacher aide support in class — 17 hours
  • Ministry of Education learning support specialists.

Adapted program catering for his needs including sensory breaks.

Buddy program in place – older students come to play; do puzzles etc.; read books with them.

Current technology available in class  – Teacher’s laptop; 5 iPads; 1 desktop computer; interactive whiteboard.

Has access to technology daily with adult’s support. Usually used as a reward or completes literacy activities with TA; various educational apps on iPads used to consolidate learning tasks.

Task

Learning goals that assistive technology may support. Riley will:

  • engage in writing tasks
  • produce legible written work
  • increase independence in producing written work.

Tools

Hardware needs to be:

  • portable and robust
  • direct touch access
  • storage for photos and videos
  • access to online class portfolio 
  • access to camera for photos and videos to personalize program
  • easy to operate.

Software needs to:

  • support development of literacy skills
  • have text to speech
  • support predictive spelling
  • support writing with pictures
  • provide the ability to share his work with others
  • have mind-mapping
  • be fun and easy to use

Assistive technology chosen to trial

Trial 1

iPad and literacy support apps: sentence building, book creating, flashcards.

Trial 2

Touchscreen laptop with Clicker software.

Notes

After a 3 weeks of trial using an iPad with Clicker Sentences the team decided against the iPad as they found he showed more literacy skills than originally assessed and required multiple tools to progress his literacy.  After an additional 4 week trial with a touchscreen laptop and Clicker, there was enough evidence of success to complete the assistive technology application.

Progress after 6 months

Riley is now able to create simple sentences by typing words, using predictive spelling when he needs to and accessing the Word Bank that he and his teacher have brainstormed with his Touch Chat based on a picture prompt.

He enjoys using the pictures that come with the words as he types.

He listens to his sentences using the read back function and looks to his teacher with a smile when he's happy with it. 

He's continuing to show more literacy and language skills with his communication device and it's evidenced in his use of Clicker 7 when writing.

Example 3: Student with Development Delay at cause and effect level

Student

Suzy, aged 6.

Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy with global developmental delay.

Requires full adult assistance for all personal care tasks.

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 engages initially, she typically only maintains interest in the activity for 1 or 2 minutes at the most. It's difficult to re-engage Suzy in an activity as she drops her head and refuses to look.

Environment

Suzy attends her local primary school full time.

She's in a new entrant mainstream classroom with 15 students and 1 teacher.  The number of students will likely increase over the term/year.

Suzy receives ORS funding — verified Very High Needs.

She is allocated 20 hours/week teacher aide and .2 Specialist Teacher time.

In the class, there are 3 desktop computers and 5 iPads. These are used on a rotational basis for independent maths and literacy activities.

Task

Primary learning goals that assistive technology may support.

  • Suzy will work independently for at least 5 minutes or work with less support on learning tasks that would otherwise require full one to one support.
  • Suzy will increase understanding of cause and effect and choosing skills with the eventual aim of using these skills to communicate with others.

Suzy will develop early reading skills including page turning and reading behaviours.

Tools

Hardware needs to:

  • be portable (to work in variety of spaces)
  • be robust enough for new entrant class
  • have direct touch access

Other possible features:

  • Camera for capturing real objects and people.

Software needs:

  • early learning software
  • cause and effect activities.

Other possible software features:

  • variety of visual and auditory stimulation
  • high interest activities
  • changeable to include images of real objects

Assistive technology to trial

  • iPad with early learning apps.

Notes

After a 4 week trial, there was enough evidence of success to complete the assistive technology application.

Progress after 6 months

  • Suzy can independently read a talking book and turn pages by tapping the screen on the iPad. She touches the screen repeatedly for new sounds and visual effects on each page.
  • Using a high interest cause and effect app, Suzy touched the screen independently 6 times and laughed and jumped at the responses. She looked at the iPad as she touched the screen. She was engaged in the activities for 5-10 minutes.
  • She independently made choices. When presented with choices on the iPad, Suzy reached to tap on the one she wanted to hear again 5 times out of 7.
Example 4: Student with Hearing Impairment requiring RMHA device.

Student

Suan, aged 9.

Diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss.

As a result he has difficulty hearing information presented verbally.

He experiences difficulty cueing into direction of teachers voice, requiring touch or visual cues to attend.

He's slow to follow class instructions and often needs to copy what peers are doing.

He's quiet in class and doesn't participate in discussions but is able to make comments in smaller groups when prompted.

Environment

Modern learning environment with 3 teachers and 92 students.

The noise level can be high when students are participating in small group activities.

Acoustics of classroom are considered poor for Suan.

Tasks

Learning goals that assistive technology may support. Suan will

  • follow teachers’ instructions in class
  • fully participate in small group and whole class discussion (making appropriate responses)
  • respond appropriately and on topic when asked by teacher.

Tools

Teacher or speaker wears microphone and student wears receivers.

Assistive technology chosen to trial

Personal RMHA system.

Notes

After a 4 week trial, there was enough evidence of success to complete the assistive technology application

Progress after 6 months

The student turns to the teacher when they're speaking to the class.

He moves promptly in response to the verbal instruction and is now working independently alongside peers.

Completes more work and is less disruptive to others as he no longer needs to ask his peers what to do.

He raises his hand several times to contribute appropriate responses to questions posed by the teacher during whole-class discussion.

He looks at the teacher or speaker, nods or affirms ideas presented by others.

In smaller group activities, he's fully engaged with the activity and talks with peers. Assists with joint activities and contributes ideas relevant to the topic.

Example 5: Student with Vision Impairment requiring literacy support

Student

Hayley, aged 13.

She has low vision and reads a minimum font size of N20.

She's 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's 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.

Environment

Hayley attends a high school which uses a mixture of technology.

Children are encouraged to bring a device to school if possible.

They have a computer suite in school students are able to use.

She moves around the school each period.

Task

Learning goals that assistive technology may support:

  • Hayley will independently access curriculum materials and tasks (books, worksheets, white board, research materials and so on)
  • Hayley will write and edit her work and be able to read this.
  • Hayley can easily share her work with staff.

Tools

Hardware needs to:

  • be portable and light weight to carry around the high school
  • fit in with school systems
  • read aloud screen/text when Hayley is visually fatigued
  • enlarge text to N20 and larger
  • have a larger screen to allow maximum text on the page
  • have a camera to take image of whiteboard
  • be able to split screen so can view documents and image of whiteboard while typing.

Assistive technology chosen to trial

  • computer with large screen and screen reading software
  • tablet (used as a camera/video camera).

Notes

After a 6 week trial, Hayley is less reliant on others to support her learning and completes most tasks independently at the same time as her peers.

Progress after 6 months

  • 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 (for example, whiteboard, books, worksheets, notes, science experiments/apparatus and so on). 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 6: Physical Disability Service requiring writing support

Student

Bridget, aged 10.

Diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy — spastic quadriplegia.

She has multiple challenges including difficulties with gross and fine motor activities.  She's working at level 2 of the curriculum.

Bridget's able to walk short distances with the support of a walking frame and has a manual wheelchair for longer distances.

She has difficulty maintaining an upright sitting posture because of lack of muscle strength and fatigues easily.

Writing with a pencil is very limited and tiring. She's able to write 3-4 sentences during a 20 minute writing session but legibility deteriorates the more she writes and can often be unreadable.

Environment

Bridget attends her local primary school full time.

She's in a mainstream class of her peers with 28 other students. There's 1 teacher and 1 teacher’s aide in her class.

Suzy receives support from Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy through the Physical Disability Service.

The class have shared group tables with plastic bucket chairs that are all the same height.

Students are allowed to bring their own devices but only 3-4 students have opted to do this. The school support Windows and iOS devices. The class has access to 10 class laptops that are shared with other classes in the school.

Task

Primary learning goals that assistive technology may support. Bridget will

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

Bridget will increase her independence within the classroom.

Tools

Hardware needs to be:

  • portable (to work in variety of spaces)
  • lightweight and easy to manage.

Other possible features:

  • Microphone and camera functions.

Software needs to have:

  • word prediction functions
  • read aloud functions.

Assistive technology chosen to trial

  • Lightweight laptop with Word prediction and reading software.
  • Slopeboard.
  • Modified chair with armrests and footplate.

Notes

After a 4 week trial, there was enough evidence of success to complete the assistive technology application.

Progress after 6 months

Using the laptop with prediction software, Bridget is able to complete writing tasks more quickly, often at the same time as her classmates. Using the keyboard is significantly easier then manipulating a pencil and the word prediction reduces the keystrokes so she can write more and faster with reduced fatigue.

Bridget's able to write 8-10 sentences during a 20 minute writing session, which is 100% legible and easily able to be read back

Bridget's able to manage the lightweight laptop on her own including carrying it to her table, opening it up, turning it on, and starting the writing program.

Using the slopeboard and modified chair, Bridget is in a much better position to see her work and do her writing.

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