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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Can You Hear Me Now? How the iPad Has Revolutionized Special Education



By Stacey Ross

One of the greatest challenges we face today is how to improve our educational system and determine, with limited funds and resources, the most effective ways to empower students to grow and thrive academically.

One particular concern is the impact of scarce resources on students with special needs. The introduction of technology in the classroom has resulted in innovative and effective programs that have made life easier for all students and teachers, but perhaps the greatest benefits have been experienced by the millions of special education students.

Thanks to the assistive technology attributed to the iPad, one of the most popular and effective products on the market, special education teaching methods have been revolutionized. Numerous anecdotal studies have suggested major breakthroughs, as students have made advances in motor, visual, and executive functions.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is the fact that technology is opening up outlets for personal achievement by alleviating some of the challenges associated with verbal communication. The iPad is helping to transition textbooks to e-books, lectures to videos, and helping students develop communication skills in groundbreaking ways!

With its impressive graphics, audio, and multi-touch applications, the iPad enables users to instantly interface with apps that help build basic skills, reading fluency, and, for some, literally enable them to interact and communicate with the world! Various news stories, including reports in The New York Times and the San Francisco Weekly, sing the praises of the iPad for assistive communication. In what amounts to a tribute to Steve Jobs,  the demand for such applications has become so big that Apple created a Special Education section in the App Store specifically to cater for the special needs community.

The following is a list of useful applications in the area of special education that have  helped facilitate verbal communication among special need students:

Social Skills (S2L) offers parents and educators the ability to interact with six social narratives (broken into 2 levels, giving a total of 12 social narratives) designed to help individuals improve their social skills in the areas of greetings, structured game play, turn taking, classroom rules, imitation, and more.

MyTalkTools Mobile enables people with communication difficulties to express their needs and desires to those around them. Users have the ability in just minutes to create and communicate very particular and even creative messages using a variety of images, pictures, symbols, video and audio files, including human voice.

TapSpeak Sequence for iPad revolutionizes how parents, speech therapists, vision therapists, schools, and institutions create and use message sequences to help children with a variety of disabilities learn to communicate. Users can record and customize messages without losing any previously recorded sequences.

Pictello is a simple way to create talking photo albums and talking books, without the need to possess reading skills. Each page in a Pictello Story can contain a picture, up to five lines of text, and a recorded sound or text-to-speech using high-quality voices.

Technological milestones are beginning to blur the line between work and play, offering a breath of fresh air and hope for continued advances for generations to come.  We hope you find these resources helpful and welcome your thoughts.

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.



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