Early intervention is key to helping young children with special needs adapt to the typically-developing world outside the home. Similar intervention and adaptation should continue throughout a student’s K-12 education and adapt to the student’s abilities and strengths as he or she develops.
We help discover and refine the solutions that will aid in successful adaptation to the expectations of the classroom and beyond, helping create as much self-determination and satisfaction as possible for students with special needs.
How do we know it works?
Students with disabilities and conditions including Down’s Syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy have been integrated in regular public schools for a generation, now. Increasingly, adults with special needs are sharing their stories and describing what worked for them, to help light the way for the next generation of students. Some of what helped was technology; some was good, old-fashioned parental persistence and the invaluable support of good teachers. They started us down the path of adapting traditional learning techniques and teaching skills to include what the then-students could identify and engage with. This adaptation has led us to our present situation: we are learning that the world is wide and varied, that different people learn in different ways, that everyone is capable of learning, and that we are all normal.
Room to grow
Particularly with portable technology (tablets, smartphones, laptops), individuals with special needs have discovered ways to communicate with the typically-developing population. We have discovered new voices using video, audio, text-to-type, integrated multimedia applications, we have helped find patience and calm with weighted blankets and “squeeze machines,” we have opened doors with natural light and quieter ambient music…the list goes on and on. Now, the challenge is to reimagine these applications, tools and techniques (whether physical or virtual) to engage special needs students intuitively: yes, that’s very, very doable. Already, we are on the road: devices no longer come with lengthy user manuals, T-shirts come with labels printed on the fabric instead of sewn onto an itchy tag, pictures and nonverbal visual guidance make unfamiliar buildings navigable.
It is now fairly well understood that when you purchase a new piece of electronica (computer, tablet, TV, gaming system), you plug-and-play (not “plug-and-pray”). Turn it on, plug it in, and go. Brilliant! We’re all geniuses 🙂
Technology is just a new set of tools. We can design them properly to do work smarter and better without forcing our customers to figure out how to use them first.
Adapting to special needs
The trick with adaptive solutions now is to define your audience and your intent very clearly, so the method, the means and the motivation are transmitted as soon as the application’s splash screen appears, as soon as the tool comes out of the box or the instructor sets up the exercise…students with special needs should feel comfortable and competent as quickly as possible. They spend enough time feeling their deficits. Let’s play to their strengths.
Here is some additional information about how technology has improved the lives of school-aged children with autism, in particular: