Assistive Technology

Click for image source.

Technology can be advantageous for a broad range of students, in addition to those with special needs. Teachers can build supports using technology to ensure progress for all learners into their instruction methods and learning materials. Assistive technology plays an important role in the provision of instruction based on Universal Design (i.e., good for all, essential for some).Education for All, 2005; Learning for All, 2011)

Having had a conversation with the Resource Teacher, KG, at my school, I contemplated the above idea about the use of assistive technology in the classroom and realized that while it is essential for some students, assistive technology can support any student who may be experiencing difficulties.  Our conversation focused around assistive technology that can be accessed by all and specific assistive technology that may be required to support the needs of individual students.  As with all technology, what is really important is that each student can be supported in a way that will allow them to succeed.
The RT shared with me a number of programs that would support any student who might be struggling with reading or writing.  These programs included WordQ, Clicker, Premier and Read and Write For Google.  These programs main features are that they can read student created material, they can predict words when students are writing and they can read text such as web articles, I have used WordQ and Read and Write in the past with a few students and the change in engagement from these students has been incredible. Work completion has increased and the students feel proud of their accomplishments.  It would greatly benefit other students in the class to use these programs as well however, the struggling students are the only ones who use this due to limited resources.  I have often wondered if by only allowing the struggling students the access to these programs, am I centering them out?

As we continued our conversation I asked about students who might require specialized technology in order for them to succeed in the classroom.  KG explained that students could receive assistive technology to meet individual needs through Special Equipment Amount Claims. Special Equipment Amount Claims provide funding to school boards to assist with the costs of equipment needed to support students with special needs and where the need for specific equipment is recommended by a qualified professional.  The SEA Claim covers a variety of items including computers, software, computing related devices as well as training and technician costs.  The equipment the student receives moves with the student as it is essential for them to be independent and to succeed in the classroom.

As we talked about the SEA Claims, I recalled a student who had a DynaVox.  The DynaVox allowed the student to communicate with peers and the teacher.  This piece of assistive technology was something that allowed the student share knowledge, to write ideas and to express thinking.  This is a form of assistive technology that is specific to the needs of the student and thus it is important for teachers to embrace the technology and to have patients when using new technology.  To some teachers, new technologies in the class may feel like something else added to their plate, however for the student it may be the only means by which to be successful.

For students who struggle, assistive technology provides tools and supports that help the students become more independent learners by allowing them to control how they can process information.

On a final note I asked what is the most sought after tool?  The response was that in general there is a need for more technology.  Students with highest needs receive tools but there is not enough resources to support every student's needs.  As an observation, I noticed that while Mrs. Gresku worked with some of our most challenged students, she was doing so without assistive technology.  I began to wonder if the resource teacher or the resource room is overlooked when technology is distributed within schools?  Is this the last place that should be considered for technology or the first?


  1. An interesting post with much that sounds very familiar. One thing I learned about our students and their SEA equipment is that we have transfer agreements with 3 surrounding boards. If a student were to move from Hamilton, for example, would their SEA equipment stay behind? I'm unsure, but am looking into it.

  2. I was informed that the equipment travels with the student. If the equipment didn't move image the delays in setting up the student with the needed equipment. I wondered what happens to the equipment when it breaks down?