How can ICT support the learning of children with special educational

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How can ICT support the learning of children with special educational needs? ICT can support the learning of children with special educational needs [SEN]. It enables children with SEN to overcome barriers to learning by providing alternative or additional methods of communicating within the learning process. Moreover, it also helps teachers to create a supportive framework, which can enable autonomous learning. When used creatively, ICT can enrich and enhance teaching, motivating pupils and engaging them in active learning. But how is this achieved? The range of special needs covers a very wide spectrum. It will be necessary therefore to examine how ICT can support the various needs. Standard equipment is often suitable for children with SEN. the settings of the computer can be changes to make it more computer friendly. The mouse motion can be slowed down for better control. The toolbar can be created to suit the children's needs. However if this is not suitable there are many peripherals and devices, which can support children with SEN, but not all are appropriate for everyone. For those children with a physical disability a variety of switches, optical pointers, voice controlled devices and word prediction software has been designed to overcome the problems these children have using traditional input devices such as the mouse and keyboard. However according to Semerc [2000] these alternative methods of access are more complex than direct input and therefore place an additional cognitive burden on the child. The system therefore needs to be set up so that it does not become an additional barrier. Children need to be competent with input devices such as switches. The technique may take time to develop and opportunities need to be provided to practise these to avoid frustration. There are a variety of switches available. Some involve hand movement while others can be operated by other parts of the body; even a strong puff of breath can operate a switch. The assessment of the type of switch required is usually carried out by specialists [Hopkins, 1998]. This assessment needs to be continuous. Bowser and Reed [1995] as cited by Bryant et al [1998] argue that as a child progresses through the Education System, their requirements change and this may necessitate a need for different devices. This is not limited to those children with a physical disability but is relevant to all children with SEN as they progress and the Education System places additional burdens upon them. For children with a visual impairment ICT can provide support in various ways; tools to support communication, to improve access to information and as a means of producing learning materials in alternative. There is a wide range of devices and software, which can

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