Students with disabilities are benefiting from the latest in technological tools. Special Educational Needs (SEN) learners can now choose from an increasing array of iPhone, iPad and android apps designed with their development in mind.
With an app-compatible device, students, carers and teachers can access applications tackling everything from numeracy to fine motor skills. These tools promote both confidence and ability. Many also include strategies for dealing with the challenges associated with a number of conditions.
There are many apps on the market for young learners who need extra help with maths skills, including Pop Math and Math Drills. Most of these apps come in a free lite version, with added extras available on the full application. Interactive games engage students and build confidence while improving their numeracy skills. Maths apps for iPhone and iPad are great for keeping young learners busy during car journeys.
Apps can be useful for students who struggle with social development. This is often the case for children with autism spectrum disorders. With experts in Aspergers syndrome education UK specialist schools can offer invaluable support for learners. Accredited centres, such as the International Community School, will tailor each course to the needs of the individual.
Most students, however, can supplement their studies with apps such as Hanging Out and Sōsh. The Sōsh app is targeted at young learners with Aspergers syndrome. It contains five main areas of social development: relate, relax, reason, regulate and recognise.
Developed by clinical psychologists Mark and Kelly Bowers, the application includes a ‘shredder’ tool for dealing with negative thoughts and a record of shared interests between the user and people around them. Other features, such as the dictionary of idioms, can be useful if the user tends to interpret sayings and expressions literally.
Young children can benefit from the Going Places app, which prepares the child for public interactions such as going to the doctor or the hairdresser. A storyboard of images, simple text and voice-over creates a positive impression and encourages cooperative behavior.
ABC Pocket Phonics is an app that helps users in the early stages of learning to read and write. Learners can choose either British or American English and write letters in upper case, lower case or cursive.
Following a letter shape outline with a finger, students memorize the alphabet much quicker than when using a keyboard. The application also includes spelling tests for simple words, prompted by a voice-over. This allows children to make an association between the phonetic sound and the written letter.
For children learning to read, phonetic apps can bridge the gap between what they hear and what they see on the page. Keeping the attention of the student is important, so apps which make use of popular fiction are among the most effective. The Toy Story 3 Read-Along, for example, will appeal to fans of the Pixar films. Of course every learner is different, so identify an interest and find an iPad, iPhone or android app that matches this theme in a narrative.
Fine motor skills
Numerous apps on the market aim to improve the fine motor skills of children with conditions such as dyspraxia. Dexteria is a popular app with which the child can play one of three games targeted at tapping, pinching and writing. These games have various levels of difficulty and help the user to improve their motor accuracy.
Since each learner will have different needs, combining a number of applications is the best way to target learning to the individual. Customizable apps with different levels work best, as they continue to challenge the user throughout their development.