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New Zealand: Assistive Technology in Education

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As the academic year commences in New Zealand, families nationwide gear up for the typical back-to-school expenses, including uniforms, stationery, and essential devices. However, for parents of children with disabilities, these costs can become overwhelming, particularly when it comes to purchasing specialised assistive technology.

One of the key benefits of assistive technology is its ability to provide personalised learning experiences. By tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of each student, technology can help bridge gaps in understanding and enable students to access content in ways that work best for them. This personalised approach promotes academic success and fosters confidence and independence in students with disabilities.

Jonathan Mosen, Chief Executive and Assistive Technology Consultant at a portal job private company, suggested selecting aids to support students with visual and hearing impairments. Often, these solutions come at a significant cost, adding to the financial strain faced by families already navigating the challenges of supporting children with disabilities. Considering what Jonathan underscored, the Ministry of Education of New Zealand has taken the stride of technology utilisation among disabled students, making their study more seamless.

Drew is a student grappling with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. Despite possessing a strong vocabulary and slightly above-average oral comprehension skills, Drew’s academic performance has steadily declined over the past four years. His struggles with writing and spelling, coupled with anxiety issues, have led to decreased school attendance and social withdrawal.

Technology harnessing is crucial in Drew’s classroom, which is equipped with 12 laptops and two tablets for educational activities. However, Drew needs help with passwords and navigation, hindering his ability to engage with digital resources fully.

A tablet trial with an external keyboard and literacy support app was initiated to address his specific needs. Over six months, Drew made remarkable progress, exhibiting increased writing output, improved spelling accuracy, and enhanced participation in class activities.

Moreover, Riley, a non-verbal student diagnosed with autism, relies on a tablet with a platform for communication. With technology, Riley has made significant strides in creating simple sentences, typing words with predictive spelling, and listening to his sentences using the read-back function. His newfound ability to express himself has boosted his confidence and facilitated greater engagement in classroom activities.

Suan, a student diagnosed with hearing loss, faced challenges following class instructions and actively participating in discussions. After a trial of a personal RMHA (Remote Microphone Hearing Aid) system, Suan’s responsiveness to verbal instructions improved significantly. He now actively participates in class discussions, responds appropriately to questions, and engages with peers during group activities.

Bridget, who has cerebral palsy, encountered difficulties with writing due to motor impairments. A trial of a lightweight laptop equipped with word prediction and reading software, alongside a modified chair and slope board, resulted in notable improvements. Bridget’s writing output increased, and her work became more legible, leading to greater independence in the classroom.

These stories underscored the transformative impact of assistive technology in education. By addressing the unique needs of students with disabilities, technology enhances their learning experiences and empowers them to reach their full potential. As schools continue to embrace inclusive practices, integrating assistive technology will play a pivotal role in creating equitable learning environments for all students.

Nevertheless, fostering inclusive education demands persistent dedication and the allocation of resources towards pioneering remedies such as assistive technology. As an educational institutions persist in prioritising diversity, fairness, and inclusivity, integrating assistive technology into pedagogical approaches will gain greater significance.

Through leveraging the capabilities of technology to aid students with disabilities, educators can establish learning environments that are not only more accessible but also fairer, granting every student an equal chance to excel. With ongoing exploration, creativity, and cooperation, the capacity of assistive technology to revolutionise education for students with disabilities is poised to expand further in New Zealand.


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