Technology can help children with learning disabilities provided they are well suited to their needs. THE'Infobourg discussed this question with Jean Chouinard, educational advisor at the Commission scolaire de Montréal and resource person at the RÉCIT national service in special education.
Are there still prejudices regarding the use of technological aids by children with learning disabilities?
Some teachers feel that it is not fair to other students. But we must not confuse justice with equality. We need to think more in terms of equity; not everyone is the same. I often compare technological aid with glasses: not everyone needs glasses, 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.
When is technological aid recommended?
Technological aid is the last step in a long process. When a teacher notices a problem with a student, they call in a specialist who strategizes with the child. If the problem persists and the student is unable to meet the requirements of the task, the remedial teacher hypothesizes that technological assistance could bring added value. For example, if a child has difficulty decoding in reading, and therefore in understanding the text, he can use text-to-speech to get around the problem and access the meaning of the text.
I often distinguish between interesting, useful or indispensable tools for the student. For example, the writing aid software Antidote is interesting for a student who is strong in French who will find additional information there, useful for correcting the spelling errors of an average student and essential for a student who does not achieve the requirements of the task.
What are the criteria to consider in choosing a good technological aid?
It is necessary to make a triangulation between the needs of the pupil, the function of help and the added value. We never recommend products (spell checkers, synthesis or speech recognition software), but rather help functions (help with spelling, reading, writing). Technological aid is a means, not an end. Standardizing the forms of assistance would be ineffective because it is necessary to adapt to the needs of each child.
What are the roles of the school principal and the teacher?
The school administration must make staff aware of the principle of equity and ensure that the teacher applies the student's intervention plan. The teacher must authorize the pupil to use the aid in class and intervene in a pedagogical manner with him. The teacher does not have to master the aid, but must make it accepted in his class.
What is the role of the parents and the pupil?
The child and his parents must recognize and accept the problem. The child must take responsibility. Technological assistance is not a quick fix and parents should work in partnership with the school. When possible, it is also useful to train parents to use the aid at the same time as the pupil.
Read also :
Change in technological assistance for students with special needs
A guide to better choosing assistive technology for learning disabilities