Ways to Get Started Using Technology to Help with Special Needs Students

Want to get started using technology to help with special needs students, but feeling overwhelmed? Here are ways to get started.

By Lisa Lawmaster Hess

Special needs and technology can work together hand-in-hand (for more about that, be sure to read “How Special Needs and Technology Can Work Together“).

Use your resources. 

Maybe you don’t know much about technology, but chances are, you work with someone who does. If you’re lucky enough to have an IT person or an assistive technology specialist at your disposal, start there. If not, talk with a specialist (the person who teaches keyboarding, the occupational therapist, the learning support teacher, the ESL teacher) or even your colleague across the hall.

Sit back and play. 

Use a search engine to find potential tools and then play around with them. If you’re not comfortable, the kids might not be either, so keep looking.

Start with the basics. 

Some software and apps are straightforward with few uses; others provide even more resources within the app or program itself. Start with what you need and build from there as you get comfortable. Or begin with templates and, once you find your footing, get creative.

Follow on social media. 

Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for photos and politics; you can get great information from places like Bookshare and Learning Ally just by following their posts.

Ask questions and seek further information. 

Don’t be afraid to go right to the source. Contact the company’s help line or send an email. Too timid to ask directly? Attend a webinar or type your question into a search engine. The more successful you are in using these devices and solutions, the more successful the companies who make them will be, so they’re usually happy to help you.

Worried you’re not doing it right?

Take this advice from Sally Hagarty: “The only time technology is used poorly is if it’s stuck in a closet.”

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College of Pennsylvania and a former elementary school counselor.