4.10.2013

How Audience Response Systems Can Help Children With Special Needs

There are millions of children in the world with impaired mental and linguistic faculties who find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to communicate. Sometimes even something as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can be a struggle for these children, making communication a frustrating experience. That is why, in some situations, it is preferable to help the child communicate with an audience response system.

The way it works is by giving a child a remote control with buttons which correspond to a series of results presented on a slideshow. The child then presses the button with their chosen response, and instantly the responses of the entire group appear on the screen in a visual format, such as a bar graph. This can be a useful tool in schools for children with special needs, as it can be extremely frustrating for children with autism and similar disorders when they are unable to articulate their thoughts.

This speeds up the pace of learning, and allows teachers to understand what it is the child wants to say a lot faster than making them struggle through a convoluted sentence. The child is also more content as pressing a button is a far more straightforward task than finding the words they want to use and structuring them in a grammatically correct way.

For children with mutism, this can be a real breakthrough. Much of the anxiety experienced by mutes stems from the idea of others hearing them speak, so to provide another avenue for communication vastly improves how comfortable they feel about making their opinion heard in front of others.
Children who are severely mentally disabled may engage well with this simple, novel activity, allowing them to ‘speak up’ in class. If a school provides each child with an audience response system handset at the beginning of each class, the children will know that they will be expected to contribute, and are more likely to listen so that they can answer the teacher’s questions.

These devices are also good because they allow the teacher to see how well the children understand the material. If the votes show that children are still relatively uncomfortable with a topic or haven’t fully understood it, the teacher can make sure they explain it again in a different way or at a slower pace to make it easier for children to understand.

Children with disabilities are often left behind in education because it can be difficult to understand the way they think and learn. With an audience response system, the teacher can stay on top of the material understood by the children, and can better tailor their teaching style to help them follow the lessons more easily.

Tim Grover works with children who have special educational needs and has been testing new technologies to help with learning

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