Assistive Technology for learning and communication in inclusive education
European University Cyprus
Public Education Sector (Early Childhood and Primary Education) – Educator’s Experience
The video is a description of how the special educator is preparing young children for using assistive technology to participate in classroom activities. Children of Early Childhood Education and early grades of primary education are involved. Children in this setting are supported individually or in a small group in a special unit and are prepared for the participation/integration in the mainstream classroom during the school day. Mainly students in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) attend this particular unit and the video is an example of a child with ASD (non-verbal) working with basic vocabulary and concepts on animals.
The technology used is a low-tech augmentative and alternative communication device: Talking Album which the child uses along with his vocabulary picture book.
The objectives of the recorded session are:
- To develop basic technology skills for the child to independently use the device
- To develop basic vocabulary
- To transfer communication with the device in the classroom setting in similar vocabulary activities
Experience and Outcomes
The educator describes that this is the main way she works with her students to get them ready for the classroom. This work is designed in collaboration with the mainstream classroom teacher.
Results mostly involve:
- Development of AT use skills
- Participation in classroom activities
- Development of communication and further preparation for AAC
Though technology involved in this video is not very innovative, the experience is important and innovative for Cyprus in the sense of the process followed and developed for enhancing the use of AT in young children and at the same time supporting classroom teachers in including children with disabilities in classroom activities. The role of the special educator and the role of collaboration between special and mainstream educators is highlighted in this example. Being in a process of special education reform and the idea of roles transformation, this experience is an example of how the work in the special unit can change towards the development of a resource centre within school for the support of inclusive education.
This experience is a consolidated practice and as the educator explains at the beginning of the video, it is more or less the process followed either individually or in small groups with students that use AAC and other AT in order to develop skills to use their technology and at the same time to achieve learning objectives based on their Individualized education program and the classroom curriculum.
Collaboration with Assistive Technology specialists outside school was initially required but then the special educator gained the expertise and collaborates closely with classroom teachers.