Gadgets such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets can be incredibly useful and stimulating for children with special needs. Some research has indicated that effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can support children with special needs in mainstream schools. In Kumar and Sangeeta’s (2013) study of 400 students with special needs in India, students with special needs allocated to classrooms with ICT attained significantly better academic achievement than students with special needs allocated to non-ICT classrooms.
In addition, many governments emphasize the importance of integrating ICT in special education. For example, the UK Department of Education published a green paper on “Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability – A consultation”.
There is an increase in the scope of direct payments, where families receive cash for the services they need and can then purchase the support they need directly (e.g. equipment such as wheelchairs and laptops). In India, children with special needs are enrolled in regular schools through the government-sponsored programme called Sara Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Children from low income families and children with special needs are more likely to be on the wrong side of the digital divide; the SSA programme seeks to provide computer education to bridge this digital divide.
You probably have many questions when choosing gadgets for your child who has special needs. Should you get your child a smartphone? Which is the best laptop for your specific needs – do you want a laptop with a large screen, powerful speakers, or durable case? How can you connect with your child using tablets? What grants are you eligible to apply to buy the gadgets?
Here is a brief summary of three gadgets – smartphones, laptops, and tablets – that may help your child.
Smartphones are excellent hearing assistive technology that can provide learning and educational support for children with special needs. Children can use smartphones as a means of communication. In addition, smartphones offers applications that facilitate communication between adults and children with visual, hearing or speech impairments. Moreover, smartphones are small and portable enough to take with you at all times. If you are worried about your child accessing inappropriate content or applications, you can restrict internet access or disable certain functions or applications.
As laptops become smaller, lighter and cheaper, they are more affordable and easier to transport to school and from class to class. Most laptops are equipped with a range of accessibility features such as voice or speech recognition, text-to-speech feedback and highly customizable and friendly interfaces. Other software products that you can purchase include reading and writing support and mind mapping which are particularly useful for children with dyslexia.
Some tablets have built-in screen magnification software, making them a good option for children with vision problems. There are also many applications designed specifically for children with special needs to enhance communication and language skills and manage behaviour. You can download these applications onto your tablet. Some of these applications are great tools and resources for teaching subjects like language, literacy, and numeracy.