Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

March 7, 2013

Technology equals opportunity for special education students

Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in Emily Nicholson’s life skills class at Western Intermediate School matched letters on what looked like a giant iPad.

The children squealed and clapped when they matched a letter pair correctly.

“They’re really proud of what they’ve done,” Nicholson said.

All of her students have a moderate to severe disability. Some of them don’t speak. Some have limited motor skills. A few of them have behavioral problems.

Teachers are using technology to reach all of those students in new ways.

The Kokomo Area Special Education Cooperative, which serves students in seven school districts, recently spent $20,000 to buy two TAP-its — giant interactive learning stations designed specifically for children with special needs.

The 42-inch screen is designed to recognize the difference between an arm resting on the screen and a finger or assisted device intentionally tapping an image. The screen is mounted on a stand that can be adjusted to accommodate students who are in a wheelchair and sit lower to the ground.

Students practice number and letter recognition on it. They listen to music on it to learn about patterns.

The students love it, Nicholson said.

Concepts like numbers and letters are very abstract and can be hard for students to learn.

The games they play on the TAP-it give more meaning to those concepts.

Some of the children already know their letters and numbers, though, and the technology is simply a means to communicate how much they’ve mastered.

Nicholson said she has students who don’t speak and don’t have the motor skills to hold a pencil or turn the pages of a book.

It’s hard to assess how much a child has learned when that child can’t take a written or oral exam like other students, she said.

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