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Computers and Children with Special Needs

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Computers Children Special Needs

The term ‘Special Needs’ spans a huge range of physical, emotional and learning difficulties. As an educational tool the computer has been proven to offer advantages across the board, bringing real learning benefits to children who would otherwise have struggled to access or comprehend the learning process.

Each child will reap different benefits and face different challenges depending on the type and severity of their disability

The Benefits Of Computer Technology

Studies have shown that computer use, regardless of ability, can improve Eye hand coordination, language development and problem solving. When these benefits are brought to special needs children they can make an enormous difference to quality of life, communication skills and, maybe most importantly, self esteem.

In cases of children with learning difficulties using a computer to for class work can brings their learning ability in line with their peers. Children with reading and writing problems, including dyslexia, often don’t struggle as much when working with an interactive interface as they do with traditional print resources. For example the spell check and editing tools that come with word processing software mean that the students can spend more time thinking about the content of their work because they know they don’t have to agonise over every word as they would when writing longhand.

Using a spell check has also been proven to improve spelling and vocabulary more than having spelling corrected by a teacher. It seems that the process of self-editing makes the information ‘stick’ in children’s minds.

The Right Software

There is a whole range of educational software designed for special needs learning. While there are different styles, arrange of activities and objectives they all share one common characteristic, ‘errorless learning’. This means that whatever the user does is right. There is no wrong action.

Some work on the principles of cause and effect so any action (pressing a key, clicking a mouse etc) is rewarded with a noise, image or animation. Others offer more open ended learning so, while there is still no right or wrong, the user is encouraged to make choices.

With the right software the user should experience a positive introduction to computing. An introduction that could have the power to change their lives in later life.

Adaptive Equipment

Obviously special needs children with severe physical disabilities may have problems using traditional computer equipment – for example the keyboard and mouse both demand a level of coordination and manual manipulation.

There are any number of equipment choices ranging from fairly affordable to and investment of many thousands of pounds. At the simpler end of the market touch sensitive pads and optical pointers can make computing far more accessible. At the more expensive end voice activation, optical character recognition and computer generated speech can bring huge advantages.

Computers In Special Needs Education

Computer aided learning delivers great opportunities for special needs children, but the computer on its own can’t work miracles. Special Needs kids still need special attention to help them learn.

Technology can offer massive learning opportunities, as long as it doesn’t become a case of sticking a child in front of the computer and leaving them to get on with it.

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