In 2010 an ERO report stated that:
“The most important differentiating factor between the most inclusive and the least inclusive schools was the ethical approaches of school leaders and staff.”
Education Gazette, 2010
Since then, according to ERO’s 2012 report, many schools have risen to the challenge and focused on developing the ways they plan for inclusion. Most schools now express a positive attitude toward inclusion and identify a variety of ways to support their students with various special education needs. Almost all schools have accessed some form of professional learning and development or support to help staff include students with special needs and 80% of schools have a special education needs coordinator.
Inclusive schools are providing “individualised support and programmes, adapting curriculum programmes, targeted teaching, providing teacher aides to support students in classrooms, working with parents, obtaining specialist advice and guidance. Further details can be found in the in the 2012 report entitled: Including Students with High Needs: School Questionnaire Responses.
But we, as educators, must continually challenge assumptions related to ’special educational needs’ to focus on what the students do, know, and need, as learners.
Linda, a 2011 CORE Education eFellow, researched how assistive technology can help students with special education needs become competent learners. She talks about the challenge of understanding the learner beyond their disability. “Once we see the learner we can then consider how best to meet their needs.” Sometimes that might include the use of a screen reading software, the purchase of a new piece of hardware or additional practical support from a teacher aide. And increasingly technology that all students have access to can be part of the way we include students in learning experiences.
Although there are many different types of special needs most learners have specific learning needs that can be addressed. The key idea is that effective schools must gather sound data on what their learners need and adapt what they offer to meet those needs as far as possible. In many instances, with a little innovative and creative thinking by teachers and technology as an enabler, the educational opportunities for all students, including those with special learning needs, can ensure that everyone can benefit.
In this snapshot the teacher at Kaka Street Special School in Tauranga was exploring how technology could be used to support non–verbal students, with significant physical impairments, to make choices. She decided to create a choice of activities using Switch it! Choose it Maker 2, to be used by the student with a single press head-switch.
In this snapshot Roxy Hickman talks about the challenge for her cluster to improve the quality of the learning experience for their students with special educational needs through staff development and the incorporation of e-learning tools.
Other software and support