Selecting Appropriate Technology for Special Needs Students

Instructor: Michelle DeSalvo

Michelle has been an academic librarian for over twenty years. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How many of us enjoy using technology such as Google Drive or iPads? Did you know that these tools can benefit students with special needs? There are many more options as well. In this lesson, we will give pointers on selecting technology.


Have you ever heard the term inclusion and wondered what it meant? Inclusion is the integration of special education students into the regular classroom. The advantage is that special needs students get to learn along with their classmates and buddies.

For children with disabilities, special education provides resources and services. In addition, instruction is tailored to their unique needs. A major piece of the puzzle is having the right technology. Technology can be defined as a tool. The tools can either be low-tech or high-tech. Technology should always be used to help empower the student.


Braille is a wonderful example of both a low-tech and high-tech resource. Over 200 years ago, Louis Braille designed the raised-dot Braille system. Did you know that he was only a teenager at the time? His system has been used by millions of visually-impaired readers.

On the other hand, Braille can also be a high-tech tool. One exciting development is the creation of the UpSense Super Braille Keyboard. The technology uses touch-screen capabilities. Using their fingertips, people can create a library of digital commands.

Technology for special needs students is often called assistive technology. Assistive technology is any tool that helps an individual with disabilities maintain or improve their functioning. In 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created and the term assistive technology was born.

Children who qualify for special education services have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). (An IEP can either be called a program or plan). The IEP outlines the services available. Also, an IEP includes measurable goals for the student. Technology is also built into an IEP.

General and Specialized Technologies

Google Drive
Google Drive

The good news is that many operating systems support special needs. For example, have you ever used Google Drive? Did you know that Google Drive has an entire suite of special education applications? Students with learning disabilities have especially benefited from these applications. A learning disability is when a student struggles with tasks such as reading, writing, or math.


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