Assistive Technology

There are a couple of things to share about assistive technology. First of all, the equipment used in Active Learning is assistive technology. Giving a child access to play with this equipment addresses instruction in assistive technology. 

A young boy gazes at an iPad.
A young boy gazes at an iPad.

Secondly, and most importantly, things that we think of as assistive technology like the use of computers and tablets may or may not be appropriate for these learners. The child first needs to learn how to use objects as tools and recognize the function of objects. 

The team needs to address access to learning first. Can the child see the screen or hear the recorded voice or sound? If not, don’t use it.

If they can access the auditory and visual information, what can they learn from it? Pushing a button may not teach them very much. They may be able to hear the sound a cow makes, but do they know what a cow is? Many push button devices can quickly become devices for self-stimulation and may have very little for the child to learn from using it.

An Illumi Bowl O'Balls from Strategy to See
An Illumi Bowl O’Balls from Strategy to See

For some children who have cortical visual impairment devices like light boxes or some apps for use on tablets can help them develop their ability to use their vision better. However, using everyday items in conjunction with Active Learning equipment can do the same thing. 

Most of assistive technology requires fine motor skills such as the ability to reach, grasp, open, close, push a button, flip a switch, etc. These skills are easily worked on in Active Learning environments.

Some specialized equipment, like beep balls or travel canes, can be utilized in many ways from simply offering a variety of balls or canes to the child to explore to taking a stroll outside or to the gym to play with some of these materials. 

Instead of purchasing expensive AT that does not teach the child or motivate the child to be engaged in learning consider some of these ideas.

    • A keyboard
      A keyboard
      Introduce the child to the concept of a keyboard by letting them play with an old brailler, typewriter or even keypad. 
    • Attach timer switches to devices such as a personal fan, audio recording, moving toy, or blender and let the child learn which switch activates which device. Offer multiple switches and devices at one time for the child to compare. 
    • Let the child play with a variety of magnifiers such as prism magnifiers or hand-held magnifiers.
Toddler uses a stick to make interesting sounds on the sidewalk.
Toddler uses a stick to make interesting sounds on the sidewalk.
    • Offer the child shortened travel canes, long dowels, long wooden spoons, sticks and other materials to explore the space around them.
    • Put a variety of opaque and transparent objects on a light box for the child to explore.
    • Give the child a variety of adapted eating utensils; adapted drinking devices; aids for grooming; or adapted cooking tools for the child to play with and explore. 
    • Let the child explore and try on various headphones and earplugs along with regular glasses, sun glasses and Noir glasses.
    • ​​Use their walker to take a stroll around the school or the house and collect things of interest as you go.
    • Play with various beeping balls outside.