Whether you’re teaching students with minor autistic spectrum conditions or profound and multiple learning disabilities, you need technology that’s accessible to a wide range of learners. Because iPad is so intuitive, it’s great for teaching embedded SEN students and can be applied to more diverse types of learning than specific SEN technology. I’ve recently been looking into how iPad can really benefit teaching SEN students, and have picked out some of the reasons (and best apps) below.
It’s incredibly accessible
One important accessibility feature of iPad is dictation – as iPad has its own built-in microphone, students can input words without having to type. The Dragon Dictation app used to be the best way to do this, but now the new iPad features its own accurate Voice Dictation function, and can read any text aloud back to the student, or let them know exactly what they’re doing using the VoiceOver function. In fact, you can customise it with a number of apps, like a Braille keyboard or sensory light box, to make it more accessible to the particular students you’re teaching.
iPad’s multitouch control makes it great for students to engage with the screen with instant feedback, using simple cause and effect apps. An app like iFish Pond (£1.49, TriggerWave) lets students immerse themselves in a virtual pond, touching the screen to interact with virtual fish in a soothing, sensory environment.
It’s completely mobile
As iPad is completely wireless, you can use it anywhere around the school for any subject or level. This is perfect for teaching students with limited mobility, as they get a chance to interact with technology in the same environment as everyone else. Their portable design also means they’re much easier to pack up and store when students have finished using them.
It’s inclusive and inspirational
iPad really is so easy for learners of all levels to pick up and start using straight away – there are no mice, keyboards or switches to get used to. This is important, as there’s no segregation or differentiation in technology, which levels the playing field for everyone. An embedded SEN student can learn using the same equipment as the rest of the school.
The apps on offer can also help inspire confidence in autistic students who might sometimes find it difficult to express their creativity, and get them joining in with others. A good example would be a simple animation or drawing app with consistent, repeatable imagery that the students can use independently without being overwhelmed.
It’s great for communication
I’ve touched on the voice accessibility features of iPad, but where it really excels is as an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device for students with language or speech impairments. Apps like Proloquo2Go, (£129.99, AssistiveWave), the iOS version of Proloquo’s control surfaces, let students form complex sentences using thousands of engaging, simple symbols. The current technology for supplementing or replacing speech usually retails at upwards of £1000 (very expensive to replace if it gets broken). The iOS ecosystem also lets you keep all your app licences to sync to any new hardware.
It’s good for evaluation
To keep track of how SEN students are getting on, it’s important to regularly assess their progress. With a built-in video camera, iPad makes this easy, as you can keep a visual record of behaviour which can tell you much more than a written report could. For example, if you record how a student reacts to a stimulus at the beginning of the year, then make regular video updates, you can evaluate their progress over the whole year. You can then take the videos and embed them directly into a Pages document directly on iPad to save as an interactive school report.
It’s tough and durable
You want students to get hands-on and engage with the iPad, but it’s important to make sure that investment is as protected as possible from enthusiastic students or those who might have less developed motor skills. There are loads of durable cases out there, but two that we regularly recommend to SEN schools are Griffin’s Survivor and AirStrap. The Survivor’s tough rubber shell helps keep your iPad safe from any classroom drops without being too intrusive to take away from any functions, while the AirStrap features a handy strap on the back which makes it easy for those with even profound learning disabilities to safely hold on to the iPad. If you have a multiple iPad suite, we’d also recommend a strong case to lock up your iPad deployment at the end of the day.
– The best iPad tools for speech and motor development
- Reactickles Magic – A suite of applications that uses touch, gesture and audio input to encourage interactive communication – FREE (Cariad Interactive) PCS Apps
- Articulation/Memory/Language – A great selection of separate apps covering different areas of SEN, which all use PCS sign symbols – FREE (Mayer-Johnson)
- Somantics – Touch-led applications to use with pupils who have autism and associated conditions – FREE (Cariad Interactive) Dexteria
- Fine Motor Skill Development – A set of therapeutic hand exercises that improve fine motor skills and handwriting readiness – £2.99 (BinaryLabs)
- Articulation Station Pro – Over 1000 target words and 1300 unique sentences teach how to pronounce all the sounds in the English language with engaging articulation activities – £34.99 (Little Bee Speech)