Learning Disabilities and the Assistive Technology Connection
Learning Disabilities Explained
With the abundance of iPads that are merging into the classrooms, teachers are able to reach many of their diverse students needs. In this workshop, participants will go home with hands-on, low cost or free assistive technology apps that may provide the right accommodation for each their students.
Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing problems. These processing problems can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and/or math. They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention. It is important to realize that learning disability can affect an individual’s life beyond academics and can impact relationships with family, friends and in the workplace.
Learning disabilities should not be confused with learning problems (disorder) which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps; of mental retardation; of emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantages.
Generally speaking, people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual achievement. This is why learning disabilities are referred to as “hidden disabilities”: the person looks perfectly “normal” and seems to be a very bright and intelligent person, yet may be unable to demonstrate the skill level expected from someone of a similar age.
A learning disability cannot be cured or fixed; it is a lifelong challenge. However, with appropriate support and intervention, people with learning disabilities can achieve success in school, at work, in relationships, and in the community.
In Federal law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term is “specific learning disability,” one of 13 categories of disability under that law.
Types of Disabilities
IDEA lists 13 different disability categories under which 3- through 21-year-olds may be eligible for services. The disability categories listed in IDEA are:
“Learning Disabilities” is an “umbrella” term describing a number of other, more specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Link to video explanation: http://youtu.be/yG_xSBsFMPQ
Specific Learning Disabilities
Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
Language Processing Disorder
What types of accommodations are used for students with a specific learning disability?
- What are accommodations? Accommodations are alterations in the way tasks are presented that allow children with learning disabilities to complete the same assignments as other students. Accommodations do not alter the content of assignments, give students an unfair advantage or in the case of assessments, change what a test measures. They do make it possible for students with LD to show what they know without being impeded by their disability.
- How does a child receive accommodations? Once a child has been formally identified with a learning disability, the child or parent may request accommodations for that child's specific needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that a child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) team — which both parent and child are a part of — must decide which accommodations are appropriate for him or her. Any appropriate accommodations should be written into a student's IEP.
Twenty-Five Years Later: How is Technology Used in the Education of Students with Disabilities? Results of a Statewide Study. Okolo, Cynthia M. & Diedrich, Jeff
When sharing information, friends will suggest to back-up findings with research. This article solidifies what most AT specialists suggest.
This is what they found:
1. Awareness of AT Is Only the Starting Point for Better Practices. Despite relatively high ratings of knowledge about technology use for students with disabilities, it is suggested that, even if many educators are aware of AT and the benefits it might offer, they lack specific knowledge about how to accomplish the outcome
2. The opportunities that technology affords many students for access to print are extremely important. Although most respondents reported that they knew how to make materials accessible, fewer than one-third estimated that students with disabilities used technology on a daily basis to access print materials. In addition, it was somewhat disappointing to find that technology is reportedly in frequent use as a reward for good behavior and rarely as a means for students to create digital content.
3. Studies conducted during the past 20 years have documented lack of access to technology, insufficient funding, and the need for further training as the most commonly expressed needs and barriers to AT implementation and use (e.g., Derer, et al., 1996; McGregor & Pachuski, 1996; Milligan, Edmiston, & Jackson, 2013). Results of this study demonstrate the same trends.
This article concludes with the following 5 recommendations for further research and practice:
In a recent review of technology supported writing for students with disabilities, Peterson-Karlan (2011) found an alarming trend. Despite the fact that technology tools to support writing have become more sophisticated and less expensive during the past 25 years, high-quality re- search about their use and impact has decreased. In fact, he concludes, in regard to students with learning and academic disabilities, “Given the insufficient size and the extent of outdated technology in the research base, we should be very wary of published work that recommends the use of technology to support compositional writing by these students as though it was an evidence-based practice” (p. 55).
Perhaps efforts by the United States Department of Education, such as the National Center for Special Education Research’s recent Technology for Special Education research program (http://ies.ed.gov/ncser/projects/) or the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Stepping-Up Technology Implementation research program (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/oseptms/applicant html#84327s) will help stimulate further research.
At a time when schools are clamoring for evidence-based practices, the field should not underestimate the importance of continued high-quality research on outcomes associated with AT, improvements in AT implementation, and best practices in AT teacher preparation and professional development. (Okolo & Diedrich).
RESOURCES NOTED THROUGHOUT THIS PAGE:
Twenty-Five Years Later: How is Technology Used in the Education of Students with Disabilities? Results of a Statewide Study, J Spec Educ Technol March 1, 2014 29: 1-20
Learning Disabilities Association of America. http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/
Assistive Technology APP: iCATER ToolKit by The University of Iowa (ITS)
Assistive Technology: an overview
CEC public policy on Assistive Technology: https://www.cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/Policy/Archives/Assistive%20Technology/Summary%20of%20Assistive%20Technology%20Law.pdf
Assistive Technology Wheel: http://imis.cec.sped.org/cec_prod/ItemDetail?iProductCode=P5550&Category=HANDOUT&WebsiteKey=269141f1-45d0-49b9-9769-40de3a48419c
Assistive Technology for Children with Learning Disabilities: http://www.pluk.org/Pubs/ATguide4LD_419k.pdf
Disability Awareness Packet:
Stories from the documentary