Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Assistive Technology (AT) is an important aspect of teaching students with special needs. It is crucial for students to be have access to technology that will support them in school & life.

Always remember: if a student has a specific technology included in their IEP they must have access to it as specified in their program.

As a student of Residency@TCSJ, one of Teachers College of San Joaquin's preliminary credential programs, I have had the ability to work alongside a master teacher since the beginning of the school year. I am placed in a special day class and have students with moderate/severe disabilities. Although I have only been in the classroom for a couple months, I have learned A LOT about AT and want to share what I have learned and that we have utilized in the classroom with our students.

Assistive technology can either be high tech or low tech depending on the needs of your students and/or the lesson you are teaching. Below are examples of both types we use.

Low Tech Tools & Their Uses:

  • Individualized icon schedules: Developed to meet each student's individual needs (breaks, earn time, bathroom) depicted with picture icons so students know exactly what task they are on at any given time. *We stick ours in a sheet protector so we can mark off tasks that have already been completed.

  • Ear plugs: For students with sound sensitivities. This helps to keep them active in the classroom for longer periods of time.

  • Sensory chewy: A safe way for students to sensory process.

  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): A way for non-verbal students to communicate using picture icons.

  • Fidgets: For students with sensory needs.

  • Large pencils/markers: For students who have fine motor difficulties, they can help them write independently.

High Tech Tools & Their Uses:

  • Text to Speech Devices

  • Ipads: These have specialized programs installed with specific icons for the student. A student will press an icon and the device will talk. *If an Ipad is used for communication no other apps are installed. This is specifically for communication and nothing else. Students will have access to another Ipad for school lessons/activities.

  • Go-talk: A text-to-speech device that is not digital. It has specific icons developed for the students needs and level.

  • Hearing Aids: For students with hearing loss.

  • Ipads: Used during lessons and/or for a preferred activity.

  • Interactive white board: Used for lessons and group activities. The white board can be customized to meet all of our students needs (Large lettering, visuals, etc).

Through the Residency Program at Teachers College of San Joaquin, I have had more access & exposure to using assistive technology in the classroom than ever before. The majority of our students are non-verbal and they need assistive technology to communicate their needs and wants to staff and peers. I have had the ability to see how beneficial assistive technology (both low & high tech) is to our students. Assistive technology not only gives students the opportunity for independence but it makes a huge difference in keeping our classroom running smoothly. I have noticed there are less behavior issues when students have access to assistive technology that supports them. Ear plugs, hearing aids, and text-to-speech devices are the ones I have noticed that help the most.

I am currently working with my master teacher to create a PECS system for a new student. I am looking forward to learning how to create, implement, and alter a communication system for a student. I am grateful to have this experience in the Residency Program and for the opportunity to work closely with my master teacher so that I am well equipped for my future students.