By Marina Proença, Head of Marketing at PlayKids
Judy Winter, mother of a son to a special needs child, has struggled to prove to teachers that her son, who has cerebral palsy, is intelligent despite limitations in his ability to communicate. In an article in EduGuide, Winter expresses hope that assistive technology can be key in providing the link between her son and educational opportunity.
While in the past many children with disabilities were left behind and given few opportunities to become educated, educational and assistive technologies are providing ways to fill in the gaps. Parents, schools and teachers are just beginning to learn how technology can play a critical role in their children’s development and can finally provide special-needs kids with the opportunities they deserve.
The Role of Technology in Children’s Development
Since the rise of the internet and interactive media technologies, the role that technology plays in children’s development has changed considerably. While once parents worried about the effects of television-watching, now parents are faced with a variety of “screens,” from iPads to smartphone apps, from the latest interactive games to social media. Given that ours is an increasingly technology-driven world, and children are surrounded by it, using new technologies appropriately and thoughtfully can go a long way in aiding children’s development and in helping them be prepared for 21st century careers and lifestyles.
Technology also has a place in early child development. While most experts advise limited screen time for children between the ages of two and five, new technologies can help young children get a head start with social and cognitive skills, as long as they are used appropriately and do not take the place of building relationships with caregivers and later, with peers.
I recently proudly joined the PlayKids team. We are working hard to offer families an appropriate and safe platform of learning activities and content to support on the kids development, and I’m very optimistic about the positive impact that technology can have supporting parents and teachers.
How Technology Can Help Special Needs Kids
Special needs kids in particular can benefit from new technology. Text-to-voice software can help kids who struggle with reading, for example. Online tools can supplement or take the place of lessons for kids who are disabled or facing chronic illness. According to Ted Hasselbring, EdD, and Candyce H. Williams Glaser, PhD, two researchers in special education, technology can help children with both mild and more severe disabilities. For children with mild disabilities who may not be getting what they need in the classroom, interactive computer programs can provide them with drills, practice and further help with skills development. Word processing programs help all students, and especially special needs kids, with attending to the more abstract challenges of revision of written work, as opposed to spending hours physically rewriting or retyping. A variety of assistive technologies (AT) are now being employed to help kids with disabilities. Augmented and alternative devices (AAD) can help students with speech difficulties or provide other avenues for communication. Descriptive video services (DVS) aid blind students in accessing educational instruction by providing narrative description of visual materials. When we talk about PlayKids, moms trust the platform because it takes away their children’s natural anxiety, while being in contact with an educational content. They are concentrated and learning. We even have cases of kids that start speaking after using the apps.
These are just a few examples of how technology is stepping in to ensure that kids with special needs get the opportunity to learn and succeed.
Using Technology Responsibly
Technology has opened up new worlds for everyone. Through interactive software, the internet, apps and other media, kids have opportunities to learn about anything they are curious about. They can connect instantly with kids in another country, or listen to a story being read to them, or experiment with world-building and learn basic coding through a variety of games. Kids with disabilities no longer have to be left behind. Assistive technologies and computer programs can individualize learning towards particular needs. Parents and teachers have more options to stay connected with each other and with their surrounding community through the use of interactive learning management systems and apps that let them know what assignments are due and what’s going on at their kids’ schools.
Like any tools, all these technologies should be used appropriately and in moderation. Parents and educators need to think carefully about the amount of time appropriate for their child, depending on the child’s needs, aptitudes, age and abilities. Technology should never replace personal communication, activities and guidance that are so important for all kids, no matter their ability, to develop into happy, successful adults. It can, however, be critical for giving kids the right start in our fast-paced, ever-changing world.
Resources for Special Kids
Schools, health care providers and governmental offices can help you find the resources you need for children with special needs. Here are also some links to get you started.
- “Assistive Technology for Kids with Learning Disabilities: An Overview.” Reading Rockets.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Parenting Special Needs Magazine
- The U.S. Department of Education also publishes a comprehensive list of organizations and links for parents of children with special needs.