Iowa recognizes importance of assistive technology

Not every student with a disability needs to be placed in a special education environment. In fact, many don’t. Often, just having a few simple and relatively inexpensive technological aids available in the classroom erases learning disadvantages and simplifies teaching.
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Not every student with a disability needs to be placed in a special education environment. In fact, many don’t. Often, just having a few simple and relatively inexpensive technological aids available in the classroom erases learning disadvantages and simplifies teaching.

Michael Behrmann, director of the Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human Disabilities, says, “With technology, an individual physically unable to speak can communicate with spoken language. Using a portable voice synthesizer, a student can ask and respond to questions in the ‘regular’ classroom, overcoming a physical obstacle that may have forced placement in a special segregated classroom or required a full-time instructional aide or interpreter to provide ‘a voice’. " The same can be said of vision, hearing, or mobility needs.

The challenge then becomes teaching the teachers how to use and implement assistive technology effectively. Iowa has taken a major step toward a solution by subscribing to Atomic Learning’s Assistive Technology Collection. This program brings short, show-and-tell video tutorials to teachers, allowing them to learn exactly what they need, and as time permits. When a teacher finds a need to implement a new assistive technology resource, a one- or two-minute training solution is instantly at hand.

Atomic Learning has spent a number of years developing and refining a tutorial library geared specifically toward successful implementation of assistive technology in all teaching environments. These videos are useful to traditional classroom teachers looking to level the playing field for their students, as well as to special education staff. Almost a hundred tutorials explain dozens of software features at the viewer’s preferred pace.

Iowa’s consortium of Area Education Agencies has made Atomic Learning available to all teachers, students, and family members in the state of Iowa, 24 hours a day, every day. Access is available through the navigation menu on the Iowa AEA website, iowaaeaonline.org, or by going directly to atomiclearning.com.

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My district wants school sites to expand our technology-based programs to include use of assistive technologies for students with special needs. I don’t know where to begin to help staff tackle this new initiative. Can you recommend any resources? There are two Web sites that can help you get started. They