Feature Writer Alena Roberts – How the iPad is Changing the World of Education for Children with Disabilities

This week I had the pleasure of attending a webinar that discussed using the iPad with children who have multiple disabilities. As an iPhone user, I was aware of the built-in accessibility, but I wasn’t aware of all the great apps and accessories that can be used to help students who have more severe disabilities. As a future teacher of the visually impaired, it was exciting to learn how a mainstream device is changing how students learn.

The first part of the webinar discussed accessories that can be used with the iPad to make it more usable. One of the purposes that the iPad can serve is to be a communication device for students who are non-verbal or have difficulties communicating. The iAdaptor is a case that turns the iPad into a communication device. It has built in speakers, a protective cover for the screen, and a stand for when it’s placed on a table. Other cases that were recommended include: Invisashield, RJ’s Ultimate iPad case, Ballistics Tough Jacket, and Grip Case. Along with being a communication device, the iPad can also be used with students who use switches instead of a keyboard. A switch is a device that is used to activate buttons like a mouse. Many apps have been designed to be used with switches, and now with Bluetooth, the switches don’t even have to use cords anymore. Some of the switch options for iPad users include the applicator from Inclusive Tech, Blue2 from Ablenet, and RJ Cooper Bluetooth Switch Interface. To learn more about switches and the apps they can be used with visit this link: http://www.janefarrall.com/html/resources/Switch Accessible Apps for iPad.pdf

With the added accessories, many apps can be used with students to help with learning and interaction. One of the main causes of visual impairment today is Cortical Visual Impairment. These students have vision problems due to brain damage, rather than a malfunction of the eye itself, and people with this condition require extra stimulation to help their brain see images better. Some of the apps that work well with these students include Five Little Aliens, Sensory Light Box, TapnSee Zoo, Peekaboo Barn, Jitterbug, and Bumper Cars. These apps are all simple, but very interactive.

The iPad is opening doors to these students that weren’t even available a few years ago. Children who have multiple disabilities no longer have to have equipment that costs thousands of dollars for them to be able to communicate, learn, and interact; and the suggestions I offered only scratch the surface of what the iPad is really able to offer students today.

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