Special educational needs

Computers can be hugely effective for children with special educational needs. There are many ways of navigating around a computer using a keyboard, joystick, mouse or touchscreen which help develop motor skills.

iPads are also increasingly being recognised as being particularly beneficial for children with special educational needs including autism, dyslexia, Asperger’s, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome:

  • they’re intuitive
  • the touchscreen is great for children with coordination difficulties - they may find tapping and sliding easier than typing and writing
  • the iPad can be easily carried, so it’s ideal for children on the go
  • iPads are cool! They’re a really attractive option for children because using one doesn’t mark them out as different

“I do think the iPad is revolutionary. A lot of evidence says that people with autism tend to have real strength when it comes to working with technology; they learn really well in a technological environment.” Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson of Edinburgh University

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Picture books are also fantastic learning tools for children with additional needs. Author Avril Webster is mother to Stephen who has complex special educational needs – she realised how using picture books with sign language helped Stephen to communicate and understand the world around him.

Here she reflects on how reading benefits her family:

Intimacy/Bonding/Building Relationship
“Reading together is a great way to ‘connect’ and create special time together. Many children with special needs spend time in hospital or at long therapy appointments. I remember when our son Stephen was a baby and we spent lots of time in hospital, I would read story after story to him. Despite the trauma of being in hospital, we could have that special time together.”

Language Development and Communication Skills
“Reading together is a fun way to help with language and communication skills. Stephen enjoys the ‘sing-song’ tone in my voice. And with books he is familiar with, when I stop reading, he will ‘fill in’ the words at the end. Picture books are a good way of generating a conversation. Stephen will point to something and name it through signing or using his particular word for it. As he is pointing to a picture, it is easier for me to understand what he is saying and to encourage his communication.”

Coping with new situations

“Stephen uses pictures and signing to help him communicate. He often finds it difficult going to new places. We found that using picture books with 12 clear pictures in a sequence helped him to manage tasks that previously he had found overwhelming...like going to the dentist or going swimming so he is less scared and better able to participate.”

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