I have a special place in my heart for those with Down Syndrome. March 21, 2014 marks World Down Syndrome Day 2014. I began my teaching career more than 20 years ago as a paraprofessional working with a third grade student with Down Syndrome. I often wonder how my instruction would have been different if I had had assistive technology available during that year. We made great progress with reading, math and social skills but I believe we would have made even more of a difference if we had available then what we have available now.
More recently, I worked as the special education teacher for two students with Down Syndrome. The impact that assistive technology had on their personal and educational growth was astounding. One example of the success we had was with the “Letter School” app. I loved “Letter School” for this particular student because we were able to set the app to the handwriting program the district had adopted and we were able to scaffold within that. We introduced the letters in the same progression of the program but on the iPad. The student began by using her finger and over time moved to the use of a wide grip stylus. Within a matter of months the student was able to write the letters with paper and pencil. She enjoyed the learning process and felt so successful along the way. How can one complain when a student thinks of the learning process as a reward? The other student I worked with also thought of iPad activities as rewards even though they were academic in nature. This particular student had more difficulty accessing the iPad and would rest her palms on the screen. By setting Guided Access (General –> Accessibility –> Guided Access –> On) I was able to block out the parts of the screen that would interfere with the activity if touched. I was also able to keep the student working on a designated activity until I decided the activity was complete. This accessibility feature is top notch in my book.
In addition to using the iPad as an assistive device, I was able to use the technology of the iPad to record short videos as a way of collecting data. Periodically I would record a student while she completed hands on activities. This showed the progress she was making week to week. An unintentional result of these recordings was that I was able to share them with the student’s parents during parent teacher conferences. The joy on their faces while watching their child’s progress was priceless to me. I’m sure that moment will stay with me for many years.