Technology Integration In K12 Education/Adaptive Technology in Special Education

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The purpose of adaptive technology is to help the individual to perform tasks that are difficult or impossible without the tool. It can be defined as utilizing a tool or piece of equipment to augment and develop practical, useful and functional abilities for individuals with disabilities. It is important to research and assess which may be the best adaptive technological solutions for each individual. Additionally, it is essential to take into account a person’s needs, preferences, and personal goals. Getting professional adaptive technology evaluations and advice by certified physical therapists or speech therapists can helpful. It will help ensure that the individual is getting exposed to the most current technology that is a good fit for them. These evaluations can take place almost anywhere, such as home, school, or daycare centers. They will show how the individual’s disability is affecting their goals and if there are any limits to the options available to them. For example, an individual may not have the cognitive or physical ability to operate a powered wheelchair. In that case the power wheelchair would no longer be an option for them. The person should be adequately trained on how to use the new tool(s) and given sufficient time to get accustomed to how they function before determining whether or not this is the appropriate technology for the individual. In cases of more complex technological tools, it may take months just to instruct the individual on the correct way to use the equipment, and many more months of adjustment and learning to use it.

History[edit | edit source]

On the website for Rehab tool assistive technology, D. Gerard quotes the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 to define Adaptive technology: "Assistive or Adaptive Technology commonly refers to '...products, devices or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that are used to maintain, increase or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities...', according to the definition proposed in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998"(2001). One detail to note is that the terms assistive and adaptive are used interchangeably. It is difficult to find information as to when the history of adaptive technology in special education began. The few sources found, say it was created about twenty to thirty years ago but offered no evidence to support this claim. In the last ten years there has been an explosion of more sophisticated adaptive products on the market that can make life easier for the individuals that use them. Though there is no exact date for when adaptive technology began to be used in special education, The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) reveals that the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, enacted from then through 2010, was originally passed as the Technology-Related Assistance Act in 1988 "to promote people's awareness of, and access to, assistive technology (AT) devices and services. The Act seeks to provide AT to persons with disabilities, so they can more fully participate in education, employment, and daily activities on a level playing field with other members of their communities" (2009). Thus, as early as 1988, legislation was passed to ensure assistive technology be made available to people, including students, with disabilities who could benefit from the tools. To view the Assistive Technology Act in its most recent amended form, visit

Advantages and Disadvantages Adaptive Technology[edit | edit source]

The biggest advantage for individuals who have disabilities is the greater independence they gain over their own lives with the use of appropriate tools. Providing a means of communication, adaptive technology affords people the ability to make choices and relay those decisions to others. Other forms of adaptive technology, such as powered wheelchairs, lessen a person's dependency on others simply by providing a way for a person who has disabilities to complete tasks without assistance. Adaptive devices also allow people to participate and contribute more with assignments, activities, and any school, social or home events. Technology permits disabled individuals to have contact with and develop relationships with individuals who are not disabled. For example, a voice output tool, such as an application of iPad, allows a person whose disability prevents speech a way to communicate thoughts, feelings, statements, and jokes. Thus, such a tool provides a means of vocal interaction. Having a voice can be the difference between having a friend or being alone since speech is one important way people interact.

Another benefit is the learning that is made possible through the use of these devices. These technological devices allow the individual to complete tasks, assignments and activities that would not be possible without them. Beyond the obvious advantages of students' who have disabilities being able to move or vocalize when they couldn't without the tool, there is a less conspicuous advantage of allowing them to join their nondisabled peers in the classroom. Research shows that students who have disabilities are far more motivated when alongside their nondisabled peers. Thus, adaptive technology benefits students who have disabilities in both obvious and discrete ways.

Lastly, another advantage to having adaptive technology in the classroom is that the technology can be engaging to students with disabilities. A study that is being conducted at The University of Notre Dame is creating robots to assist in learning for students with autism. The adaptive technology will be in a robot because some studies have resulted that students with Autism relate differently to people then technology. The University of Notre Dame’s research program is trying to use technology to assist in the behaviors of autism and communication delays. More information about robots and autism can be found through this link: Technology can be a great advantage for students with disabilities because like the robot to students with autism technology is something that is intriguing. Students are drawn to the abilities of technology.

One of the biggest disadvantages is the cost of the technology. Some of the equipment runs in the thousands of dollars, making the technology potentially unaffordable for some individuals. Thus, though adaptive technology may greatly benefit an individual, use of such tools may be entirely unattainable. Though some equipment costs thousands of dollars, others are not as expensive. Of course, expensive is a relative term. A college student I spoke to who owns an iPad described it as expensive claiming it costs approximately five hundred dollars plus another ten dollars for each of may basic applications. Now compared to the several thousand dollar cost of many adaptive tools, the iPad may seem inexpensive to some, yet costly to others. To see a video of the iPad and a few of its many uses, go to the following newspage and scroll to the video:

Another drawback is the inadequate training and orientation some individuals receive. It is critical to understand that using adaptive technology involves more than a person just having the device. Without proper training and time to adjust to the new technology is ineffective. Additionally, when the chosen adaptive device does not meet the person's needs it can cause additional frustration.

In addition to cost and training another disadvantage is most students do not have that ability to use these adaptive devices outside the classroom environment. Students will become depended on using these tools for communication in the school setting. Once at home, because the cost of these devices is not affordable for all families, the students who become depended on adaptive technology can become frustrated at home. Although some schools may allow students to use these devices outside the classroom most student do have not have the technology at home to use these devices. Lastly, a disadvantage to students who use adaptive technology may come from his or her classmates. Some students may get jealous at the students who get to use the computer more than other students. Although the teacher can assist in the understanding of certain needs for other students and help the classmates understand that everyone has different needs.

Types of Adaptive Technology[edit | edit source]

SMART Table[edit | edit source]

The SMART Table is an interactive learning center. Students can work together around the SMART table and simultaneously touch the surface. The SMART table is a form of the SMART Board only in the form of a table instead of on the wall as a projection screen. Students can sit in chairs around the table using their hands and fingers to work. The SMART table can benefit students with fine motor disabilities. The interactive table can serve as a positive reinforcement for students to build their fine motor skills by allowing them to interact. The students have to use their finger in order to interact with the programs allowing them to increase fine motor muscles.

The company press release for the product states that the smart table became available in spring 2009 for a cost of about $7000.00. The features include: Being able to accepts simultaneous input from an unlimited number of fingers or pens, being able to accept simultaneous input from unlimited users, Offers a wide range of images and backgrounds to make activities more engaging for specific topics, has a wide viewing angle to ensure viewers can clearly see the information on the screen from any angle, supports object scaling and object rotation, and requires no set up. The toolkit is a stand-alone application that runs on teachers’ computers so they can customize applications that are already loaded on the SMART Table, or create their own activities in SMART Notebook software and load them on the SMART Table’s customized PC using a USB key.

Smart Board[edit | edit source]

A lot of schools are now incorporating the Smart Board into the classroom setting. The Smart Board can be another advantage to students with Autism, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disturbance, Cognitive Disability, Specific Learning Disability, and Speech and Language Impairment. The Smart Board can be a great tool for teachers to use as motivation to learn in the classroom. Teachers can easily assist the needs of all students when using lesson plans with the Smart Board. The teacher can include positive reinforcement for students with Autism and Emotional Impairment. Lesson plans can also be modified with pictures to help students with Cognitive Delay. This interactive tool can benefit students with disabilities because it is engaging and encourages interaction in the classroom. A lot of students with disabilities are using adaptive technology in many different ways and the Smart Board is a tool that all students can use together in a collaborative setting.

IPad/IPod/IPhone/Mp3 Players[edit | edit source]

iPods can be used to read testing materials to students. The individual use headphones and take the test in the classroom instead of having to leave the room. The pause button allows the students to take the test at their own pace. Some states are allowing students to take their tests this way. iPods have applications that that allow the capability for students to learn in a language that is different from the language being taught in. For example, I have seen a teacher set up the devise so that when they read a story to the class, a deaf student could see the words of the story signed. This was amazing as the teacher did not know sign language but was still able to read a story that the child could hear. Students can even learn new languages with this tool.

The Iphone and Ipod can serve as an adaptive technology device for so many students with a different range of disabilities. There is an abundance amount of applications that can be downloaded onto the Iphone or Ipod that students can carry with them throughout the day. These tools can be used by students with disabilities at his or her desk. The can be a benefit to students who needs the use of applications to communicate with other students. The Iphone and Ipad are also a more appropriate way to connect with other classmates. Classmates will be more accepting to students who use these types of adaptive technology because they are more modern versus always sitting by a computer. Students who need adaptive technology to communicate can now use the Iphone or Ipad devices right at his or her desk.

Here is a website that offers applications for the iPad,iPod, and iPhone that individuals involved with special education might find helpful.

Using Mp3 Players in the classroom can benefit students with Autism, Cognitive Delay, and Speech and Language Impairment. Mp3 players can serve as a listening device for students. Teacher can record books and instruction on Mp3 players and have students who benefit from hearing instruction multiple times listen to the instruction through his or her device. Students who may need to hear oral instruction verses written instruction can also benefit from the use of Mp3 players in the classroom. For additional ways to use Mp3 players in the classroom you can read about it on this website:

Dynavox[edit | edit source]

Dynavox are computers that include a touch screen tablet that can be attached to the computer. This device can be used by people with disabilities by allowing them to communicate, play, and learn. Dynavox includes many different types of devices that can serve different disabilities. V & VMax is a device that can serve the need of people with communication disabilities. The device includes options for many different communication situations. For example, the device includes face-to-face conversations, text messaging, and e-mail. EyeMax is one of the newest devices that assist people with gross motor disabilities. Someone with the disability that does not allow them to move their hands can benefit from EyeMax. EyeMax allows someone to be able to use their eyes to control the device and communicate. The device tracks the person's eye movements on the screen and with a code for how many blinks the person does the computer responds as if he or she were clicking with a mouse. In the article "Employing Adaptive Technology for Advanced Special Education," writer Eric Smith records David Cattell, the head of assistive technology for the Chester County Intermediate Unit, explanation that eye gaze technology (such as EyeMax and other tools)tracks eye movements by employing a camera connected to the computer. The computer is equipped in such a way that it interprets what the student is ordering it to do through the student's gaze. Cattell reveals that the price for eyegaze technology is currently around $15,000(Smith, 2010).

Flip Page Turner[edit | edit source]

A flip page turner is a device that allows individuals who could not otherwise hold a book and turn the pages to read. The price for this capability is around $3900. The unit sits on a table and allows an individual to easily turn the pages of a book, magazine, or whatever is desired to be read up to 5 at a time by pushing a button or by using a mouth piece. The reading material can be changed rather quickly, it takes approximately 2 minutes.

Reading Pens[edit | edit source]

This technology allows individuals to hear the words on a page by gliding the pen over them. This tool is useful for people that have reading or literacy impairments like dyslexia. Because they are a little larger than regular pens they are light and transportable. There are a few varieties to choose from. The basic model is for made for elementary school students. The advanced model is designed for adult level reading. There is a dictionary function so unknown words can be easily looked up. The price of these pens range from $199.00 to $229.00. Sets of ten pens range are available for $1699.95 to $1999.95.

Text Readers[edit | edit source]

Free downloadable Text Readers are available online for teachers to use for student with communication disabilities. For students with reading and writing disabilities the text can be read out loud to the students through computer interaction. Word Talk is a free text-to-speech plug-in developed for Microsoft Word. Free download can be found at In addition to Word Talk another text readers that can be assistance to students with communication disabilities can benefit from Spoken Text. Student that are non-verbal can use Spoken Text because it converts text into speech. This is another free download that teachers can include in their classrooms because it allows students to participate in presentations and projects with groups. This download can be found at

Future Direction of Adaptive Technology in Special Education[edit | edit source]

The present advancements in adaptive technology shadow just a glimpse of what is to come next in the field of Adaptive Technology in Special Education. Implications of this widening field spread far beyond the special education classroom, however. David Cattell (Cattell is the head of assistive technology for the Chester County Intermediate Unit who was mentioned earlier in this chapter's Dynavox section) discusses how students without disabilities can benefit from adaptive technology, using the example of a voice recognition system in which one speaks into a microphone words that the computer then translates into text. Of course this form of technology would benefit students who have fine motor disabilities, but Cattel points out that it can benefit any student who has difficulty writing or typing, as well as students who have busy schedules, such as those active in sports, musicals and other extracurricular activities, by using a mobile device (Smith, 2010).

Perhaps the most revolutionizing implication of the use of adaptive technology in special education in the future is, in fact, that students who do not have disabilities will also use adaptive technology, since the common use by both groups of people would offer a way for students with or without disabilities to see that they are not so different from each other; but rather that each have needs that can be met by similar means. News writer Eric Smith quotes Mary Ann Lucas, the elementary individualized education program facilitator for the Owen J. Roberts School District, to show that since "'These technologies are a bonus to (non-disabled) kids as well'...'Special-education students are no longer seen as different'" (2010). By benefiting both students who do and those who do not have disabilities by meeting individual needs, adaptive technology not only meets those needs, but also bridges a gap in the social context of both groups of people. Perhaps someday in the near future, regardless of disability or lack thereof, students will identify and choose tools that cater to their individual needs and preferences, and will use these tools alongside others of different abilities to enhance their current abilities and empower them to move forward in life and in education.

References[edit | edit source]

Gerard, D. (2001, December 17)."What is Assistive Technology?" Rehab Tool Assistive Technology. Retrieved from

Mp3 Players

National Dissemination Center for children with Disabilities.(2009, December). "Assitive Technology Act." Retrieved from

Smith, Eric. (2010, August 29)."Employing Adaptive Technology for advanced Special Education(Video)." Daily Local News. Retrieved from

The University of Notre Dame