Students with Down syndrome have delays with cognitive ability. Their brains have a delayed reaction when their neurological system sends a message to complete a task. This causes them to take longer to complete a task than their non-disabled classmates. But since federal legislation requires students with learning disabilities to be educated in the same manner (and often the same classrooms) as other children, there has been a need for modifications and tools to assist special needs students in meeting their educational goals.
Assistive technology for Down syndrome is a new method that has been developed specifically to help special needs children in the classroom. It includes any type of equipment or materials that will enhance the child’s learning and make the tasks easier to complete, from scissors with a spring to a shortened pencil or enlarged graphics.
Below are five areas where assistive technology for Down syndrome can assist special needs children in their classrooms.
A child with Down syndrome automatically has delays in processing information and working to complete tasks. When special needs students are in the same classroom as non-disabled peers, it is important to gauge the amount of work they are each able to accomplish in the same amount of time.
If a non-disabled student is able to complete a worksheet with 10 problems on it, the Down syndrome student may only be able to complete two of those problems. Assistive technology for Down syndrome comes into play by making the information accessible to a special needs student. This may require using fewer words, enlarging the graphics and lettering or even highlighting key words so the information is not overwhelming in addition to verbal instructions.
A child with Down syndrome tends to have shorter, stubbier fingers and a lowered thumb making their ability to write more difficult. Since some of the wrist bones are not formed, holding regular-sized objects and manipulatives may be more difficult for these students.
Assistive technology for Down syndrome has learned that slanted desks or a three-ring binder turned sideways allows a Down syndrome student to compensate for the lack of mobility in their wrists.
Also providing shortened or triangular-shaped pencils can help them in holding their pencils properly.
Assistive technology for Down syndrome has also created awareness that children with the condition often have trouble using the scissors provided in the classroom. Their hand mobility does not allow the ease of opening and closing the scissors since that motion is difficult.
The aid provided are scissors with springs that are fixed to automatically open once it has been shut. Since the Down syndrome children are unable to learn that motion through their own experience, they are able to simulate it through these special scissors.
Every child needs those opportunities to work with their hands and learn through experience and touching. But children with Down syndrome, even more so, need tactile experiences for their growth and development. Assistive technology for Down syndrome offers some creative tactile ideas for allowing special needs children to learn in their school environment.
Among these suggestions are forming their letters and numbers in Play-Doh or making them in shaving cream on their desk. Children who are just beginning to learn the alphabet can use enlarged letters and glue to trace the letters on the paper. It is not only a fun way to learn, but encourages the children to follow the lines while tracing with their pencils.
Children are beginning to learn how to use computers and other electronic technology at a younger age. In school, it is just as important to begin utilizing that knowledge and applying it to their school work as well.
Smartboards are being installed in most elementary school classrooms and is an excellent tool for students with special needs. Lessons can be created that allow the students to move objects with their fingers and draw lines to connect sounds with the correlating words and use a mouse to gain fine motor skills.
All in all, assistive technology is an asset to any school with special needs children, especially the tools designed for children with Down syndrome.