Technology supports for children

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Yooralla

Technology can support children with disability to access education, integrate with peers and communicate with their families.

Advances in technology can often seem overwhelming.  Smart phones, tablets, smart watches, blue tooth, heart monitor wrist bands, the list goes on. However, rapid developments in technology are more than just gadgets – new devices are supporting children with disability to access education, integrate with peers and communicate with their families in ways once thought impossible. 

Research shows that increased support during the early years of childhood improves outcomes for children with disability and technology can play a significant role. Assistive technology can include equipment to enhance the home and general mobility, as well as specialised devices and mainstream tablets, smart phones, speech generating devices, switch access and environmental controls.

Interestingly, not all types of assistive technology are high-tech. Communication and assistive technology is any device, equipment or system that helps a person with disability work around their challenges so they can learn, communicate or enhance independence.  Visual communication boards are a low-cost tool that displays photographs, symbols, words or phrases,  or a combination of all three, to facilitate communication.

Modified or adaptive toys are a fantastic development for little ones, catering for all stages of childhood development. All children learn through play, yet many children with disability rely on support to play. Adaptive toys can provide children with independence in play, a sense of control over their environment, building gross and fine motor skills and increased engagement in play with their peers.

According to Special Needs Toys Australia, it’s best to consider how a child plays with toys as a reflection of where they are developmentally, for example:

  • exploration (examination of the toy through touch, sight, and sound)
  • discovery (realisation of the toys uses)
  • interaction (creative and imaginative use of the toy

Communication and assistive technologies are also contributing to a more inclusive classroom environment for school-aged children.  New technologies are supporting children with listening, math, organisation and memory, reading and writing challenges to integrate into mainstream schools. These include:

  • audio players and recorders - help children to listen to the words at the same time as reading them on the page
  • keyboard alternatives - provide customised overlays for a standard keyboard
  • optical character recognition devices - allow students to scan printed material into a computer or handheld unit which is then read aloud via a speech reading system. 

Some technological advancement such as the web-enabled coffee cup make you wonder where technology is headed (and why!). However communication and assistive technology innovations are giving children with disability new ways to learn through play, build motor skills and integrate with peers, opening up exciting opportunities for children, their families and the whole community.  

Related links:

Yooralla Children's Services

Yooralla Communication & Assistive Technology


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