Teaching with a partner in technology

iPads give way to learning advancements for children with special needs

Gone are the days of books, paper and pencil being a teacher’s only tools in education. New technologies through the years have paved a path to more possibilities for educators and administrators alike, though some of the same challenges still faced special education teachers. Enter the iPad.

Since its release in April 2010, the Apple iPad has been widely used in special education classrooms around the United States (and beyond) to customize learning for students with special needs. Applications available for the iPad address some of the biggest barriers facing teachers and parents, including communication, speech, motor skills and much more. Naturally, districts, educators and parents are embracing iPad technology for individuals with special needs and searching for more resources to fill their need for information.

In the metro-area the Touch Technology Applications Conference, which was held in mid-September, brought together app developers, parents, professionals, parents and special educators to learn the ins and outs of specific applications before putting them to use. St. Louis area parents Lori and David Holbrook had the chance to speak at the conference and share how this technology has changed their daughter Hannah’s life.

“The Touch Technology conference here in St. Louis was a great tool for parents, therapists, teachers…to learn about new apps as well as using the iPad, or another computer tablet, as an AAC Device and/or a learning tool,” Lori said. “This technology is changing the future for our special needs kids as a wonderful tool for education and communication.”

Hannah has the diagnosis of Down syndrome, autism and apraxia of speech and her parents wanted to share her story to help others considering other forms of communication for their child with special needs. They say having the iPad has been a phenomenal tool that has opened up the door to her daughter’s world.

“It has changed our lives.  Hannah is able to interact with us, her peers, request food, toys, etc. She even orders her own food at McDonalds,” Lori said. “The iPad has given Hannah a voice, some independence, and has opened the door for us to understand and be able to see what she knows and understands.”

If you are interested in getting an iPad for your child, but are worried about the cost, there are a host of possibilities to obtain them for a reduced cost – or even for free. Apps for Children with Special Needs (a4cwsn.com) is currently doing a 40-day iPad giveaway and Variety Children’s Charity in St. Louis recently received a gift allowing funding for 15 iPad gifts for families in need (see the Variety website for details http://www.varietystl.org/blog/special-gift-provides-funding-for-15-ipads).

For resources on applications for children with special needs, visit these sites:
·        a4cwsn.com
·        momswithapps.com/apps-for-special-needs/
·        http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMultiRoom?fcId=399470755&mt=8

Lori also is the creator of the CHAT Bag (CHAT standing for Children Have A Tool), a carrying bag that doubles as a protective case for an iPad – inspired by Hannah. Find out more about Lori, Hannah and the CHAT Bag on her sitechatbag.net

Lori Holbrook, mother of Hannah Holbrook
KSDK News Channel 5, ksdk.com: http://www.ksdk.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=338870
Touch Technology Conference: http://www.specialneedstouchtechnology.com/about.html
ABC News, http://abcnewspapers.com/2011/01/17/ipad-pilot-program-brings-new-ideas-to-special-education/
Variety St. Louis, http://www.varietystl.org/community-support-st-louis
Apps for Children with Special Needs, http://a4cwsn.com/
Mom’s with Apps. http://momswithapps.com/apps-for-special-needs/