The "least restrictive environment" clause of the IDEA requires the student be placed in a standard learning environment whenever it is practical (Beard, Carpenter, & Johnston, 2011).
Technology allows students who have visual impairments to be able to admission to the general curriculum, to increase their options towards literacy, and to improve communication. There are a variety of assistive technology tools that are designed for students with visual impairments, but most require specialized instruction. Depending on the level of the child's visual level of impairment such devices include range from electronic Braille note takers to video magnifiers to screen reader software to auditory conversion devices.
Reading and writing are the fundamental tools that young students learn in the early grades and assistive devices for Emily should concentrate on developing these skills. Students with impaired vision that are not blind may benefit from changes in the size of print and in typeface. Any such changes would of course be contingent on student's visual capability as well as their learning preferences. Emily would ideally undergo an evaluation, a functional visual assessment and even a learning media evaluation (Smith et al., 2009). The actual reading medium is would also be an important consideration. Some students might utilize a combination of visual, tactile, auditory, or electronic media to improve the primary reading mode. Thus, the teachers of the visually impaired child can help establish the learning media will be most beneficial for the child. In the current case for assisting with reading Emily would benefit with the aid of magnifying tools. These assistive devices allow visually impaired students to use the very same handouts and textbooks as their classroom peers. A typical vision magnification unit will be equipped with one or more screens that magnify reading and other materials when they are placed underneath the camera. Of course Emily will need to be trained in the use of this technology. These devices use four types of magnification: relative-size (large format), relative-distance so material is closer, lens-based magnification, and projection. Students can learn to read via standard textbooks by selecting the font size of their choosing. They can also adjust the color contrast (black letters on white, white on black, etc.) in order to fit their particular needs. There are also smaller, portable units that students can bring to class or take home (Smith et al., 2009). Emily can learn to make use of both of these types of devices.
For writing, there are high contrast pens which make letters more visible because they use the high contrast ink (Scherer, 2004); however, to learn writing skills multi-modal can use software programs that are compatible with Windows in computers to help them. There are magnification character programs that magnify images and also allow for a speech function that reads screen content aloud. These programs can be used with multimodal teaching methods to successfully teach visually impaired students to write (Plimmer, Crossan, Brewster, & Blagojevic, 2008). The use of these programs and methods has been found to be effective in teaching visually impaired students to produce written characters. Emily can benefit from both of these assistive devices.
Finally, visual impairment can lead to social isolation in students, hinder the typical social interactions they experience or limit social skill development. There are many other assistive devices to help with reading and writing, but at this early stage of development it is also important for Emily to be a part of the school and not isolated from her peers, sometimes simple assistive devices can help in this vein. The use of a cane and special equipment in gym classes such as different colored or larger balls will assist Emily to navigate the halls and participate in many of the activities that her peers participate in (Scherer. 2004). This will assist with her social development in school as other technologies assist with her academic skills.
Case Study Two
David has a verbal learning disability that affects his reading and writing skills, but according to the vignette not his verbal articulation skills. As reading and writing are two separate areas we will first discuss his reading skills. A very useful set of assistive devices for David would start with a program called text-reader software that uses a synthetic speech program to read a book out loud while the written text is highlighted on a computer screen (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2006). Many of these programs translate text into speech for individual words, whole sentences, or for entire paragraphs of text. Such programs would allow David to customize the program for his own personal preferences such as the gender of the voice, pitch, and speed of the text output. The audible output can be presented via speakers or headphones. Text-reader software opportunity allows for a more even playing field for leaning- disabled students who cannot decode words or comprehend text at their own grade-level. This type of assistive technology has been empirically demonstrated to be extremely useful in improving the reading skills of students with reading disabilities and also to help remove the stigma students with learning disabilities encounter (Hasselbring & Goin, 2004).
A related technology of course is the use of audio books. Of course audio books were not originally developed for people with learning disabilities, but they can be very helpful to students with learning disabilities, especially to get them to read material that is not class related (Clark, 1983). Students with learning disabilities such as David appear to be able to better comprehend the themes related in a book if they hear it rather then read it. In order to encourage David to read offer both the printed book and the audio counterpart. David can choose from a number of topics that interest him. He should be encouraged to read along with the audio version and ask him to convey the stories main points and ideas, or to predict what will happen next in the text (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2006). Over time as he benefits from text-reader usage he may be weaned off of the purely audio books.
In addition, electronic text (e-text) is becoming increasingly more popular and there are more books available in an e-text arrangement. The benefits of e-text include the ability of the reader to alter the appearance of the text. This can be helpful for students with reading disabilities as how one sees the text can influence their ability to read text and to comprehend it. To a person with a learning disability many normal pages appear cluttered little white space and lots of small confusing printed words. With e-text documents David can resize the font and control the color contrast of both the background and the text to make reading easier (Lindstrom, 2007).
With respect to David's difficulties with writing, there are also computer programs for improving written skills, an area of embarrassment for David. There are specific computerized programs that allow the student to write with the aid of the computer program. For instance, as David is writing the program attempts to predict the word that he is attempting to write based on the context of the passage or on the first letters typed by David. The program provides several choices and David can pick the relevant one. Moreover, at any time David can have the program read back what he has written. This allows him to check his writing. These assistive programs have been empirically demonstrated to dramatically increase the composition skills of students with writing disabilities (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2006). Typically students like David will often omit words, misread written text even if it is their own composition, or transpose letters. Writing programs such as these allow the student to work at their own pace and help them avoid the embarrassment associated with simply trying to handwrite their thoughts (Scherer, 2004). These technologies also offer the least restrictive methods of teaching a student like David.
Anywhere from a third to one half of adults and children with autism cannot use speech in a functional manner (National Research Council [NRC], 2001). Therefore, Michael's case is not that unusual. Thus, Michael is a good candidate for augmentative and alternative communication technologies to function as his primary method of expressive communication. There is research to indicate that autistic children may have difficulties learning manual signing techniques due to issues with fine motor skills or other problems (NRC, 2001). Aided communication assisted devices are external to the people who use them and consist of the use of symbols such as photographs or pictures, drawings, and in some cases letters and words. There is an empirically validated technology that has been shown to be effective with such students in the classroom that exploits three different assistive devices and allows the class to work together with the teacher(s).
To address the above issues Hirano et al. (2010) developed an interactive and two-way assistive technology called vSked for visual schedules. vSked is made up of individual devices students that are coordinated by the teacher…