ICTs to help students with learning disabilities: an injustice to others?

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In the past, young people with learning disabilities were simply seen as weak. Today, we better understand their difficulties and we try more to give them a helping hand. Professional services, technological tools, additional time or separate room to complete an exam are options offered more and more often.

However, the impression of unfairness towards other students persists among certain actors in the education community. Nadia Rousseau, educational psychologist and professor at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, noted this in the context of an action research. “What we noticed at the start is that the teachers had little knowledge of the technologies. The fears were very high, the researcher told Infobourg last year. The perception was that assistive technology made life quite easy for the young people who benefited from it and that it was unfair to others. Some teachers wondered whether it was not preferable for these students to attend special education classes. "

Moreover, each new school year, Derrick's mother, Marie-Josée Brunelle, comes up against reluctance. Sometimes she has to meet certain teachers and she does not always manage to convince them.

We must undo these tough prejudices by making people realize that technological aids do not benefit such a student, but rather help to upgrade them, believes Richard Ayotte, educational advisor in ICT integration and RÉCIT resource person at the Commission scolaire des Samares. “I have in mind a student who had just had a first academic success with the use of his support tools. We told him: “It's as if you had cheated, you won't touch that anymore!”. ”

Paradoxically, the high intellectual capacities of certain young people are sometimes a disadvantage. They manage to compensate for their difficulties and they nevertheless get the passing grade. "A student will get 65 %, but he could get 85 % and more with the help of text-to-speech software," explains Jean-Louis Tousignant, chairman of the board of directors of theQuebec Association of Learning Disabilities (AQETA). But since it is not in check, some school administrators refuse to put in place an intervention plan. However, poor results can prevent a young person from being admitted to a particular program and jeopardize the pursuit of his studies.

"Justice should not be confused with equality," nuanced Jean Chouinard, educational advisor at the Commission scolaire de Montréal and resource person at the RÉCIT national service in special education in an interview in 2011. We need to think more in terms of equity; not everyone is the same. I often compare technological aid with a pair of glasses: not everyone needs them, but they are essential for those who wear them. On the other hand, not all glasses have the same strength and adjust over time. It is the same for technological aid, it must be adapted for those who need it, in a logic of equity. "

The Canada Research Chair in Information and Communications Technologies in Education argues that assistive technology does not do the work for the student. “The software forces the student to think. It's as if he had a teacher by his side who constantly questioned him, ”he illustrates.

What the authorities say

The Policy on the evaluation of learning, adopted by the Ministry of Education in 2003, is clear about the principles that should guide teachers. “Because of the importance of evaluation in the student's school life, it is necessary that it be done in accordance with the values that ensure its quality,” one writes. While justice implies that the rights of students are recognized and respected by the application of the laws and regulations which govern them, equality assumes that judgments made on learning are based on uniform benchmarks and criteria. As for equity, it implies taking into account individual characteristics, or characteristics common to groups, in order to avoid unduly advantaging certain students or causing prejudice to others. "

The ministry also insists on respecting differences. “Students have different abilities and ways of learning; they do not all evolve at the same pace or in the same way. Differences also arise from the socio-economic and cultural characteristics of their places of origin. Taking these differences into account assumes that the teacher has recourse to pedagogical differentiation which allows students to develop the required skills while taking various paths and that he adjusts his learning assessment methods accordingly. In the course of learning, the teacher foresees situations which are common to all the students in a group and others which are differentiated to take into account the pace of progress or the particular needs of some. For the assessment for the purposes of recognizing skills, respect for differences presupposes the adaptation of the assessment methods to the particularities of certain students, without the requirements for success being modified. "

Moreover, budgetary constraints are no longer an excuse to refuse services to these students, recalls Jean-Louis Tousignant. In fact, in a judgment rendered in November, the Supreme Court of Canada indicated that "adequate specialized education services are not a luxury that society can do without." In this high-profile case, parents of a dyslexic boy sued the British Columbia government over the abolition of an intensive remedial program at the school he attended.


1. Know success at last through technology
2. ICTs to help students with learning disabilities: an injustice to others?
3. Technologies for assisting learning disabilities: the technopedagogical challenge for teachers
4. Digitizing your traditional equipment: a survival guide
5. Deployment of technological aids: changes to be expected in the classroom
6. Assistive technology and ministerial assessment