Different types of assistive technology for special education students include talking calculators, speech synthesizers and personal hearing systems. Other aids include audio books and text-to-speech tools. Special education classrooms, which cater to people who have hearing, vision, mobility and cognitive impairments, are stocked with these tools to compensate for any disability and to enhance the ability of students to acquire new information and skills in a personalized way.
For blind students who cannot learn from standard worksheets, prints books or a chalkboard, assistive technology for special education classrooms they attend might include aids ranging from Braille to talking computers and recorded books. Modern Braille offers more flexibility than original Braille, which existed in immovable format and had to be pre-fabricated; contemporary Braille devices can do impromptu scans of text and have a set of vertical pins immediately arrange themselves to mimic the scan, resulting in little wait time to read new material in Braille form. Often, special education classrooms will also have keyboards with raised Braille letters to make computer use easier. Some special education classrooms also invest in Braille printers that can create a hard copy with raised lettering for any computer page.
Students who are blind may not be able to read a computer screen, but there is technology that will convert text-to-speech as the students write or as they click on a digital lesson. These products are known as speech conversion software and screen readers, respectively. Recorded or audible books for blind or low-vision students are available in digital audio and compact disc formats. Teachers often are able to download audio books for playback on computers or personal digital recorders that students can use in class.
A students who has a limited ability to hear or is completely deaf might benefit from a teacher using subtitled videos. Rather than listening to lectures and spoken teacher instructions, students in classrooms that have the proper assistive technology for special education will have educational software that uses mostly visual and text-based instructional delivery. Studies have shown that speech delays and impediments might arise with students who are hard of hearing and unable to listen to natural speech. This can make it difficult for teachers and peers to understand what the child is saying.
Teachers of such students often use speech synthesizers that that will speak for the child who is deaf. This portable speaking system generally has a keyboard connected to speakers that emit a digital, human-like voice. Whenever the student types, words are converted into correctly pronounced language.
In classrooms that cater to students who have limited use of their legs and hands, assistive technology for special education involves specially designed computer input devices and levers that are customized to fit whatever body part the student might be able to mobilize for communication and learning. Often, mouth pieces or head-pointers are designed for students who have little mobility to put data into computers by using equipment that is attached to their jaws or forehead. In other cases, customizations might simply include special height features or a change in the orientation of computer equipment from horizontal to vertical.
When the impairment is cognitive instead of physical, assistive technology for special education could include systems that help students decipher what they read and hear. Students who have learning disabilities often hear and read statements without understanding them or without giving them their adequate sustained focus. One type of assistive device for these pupils is the paper-based computer pen that records spoken lectures as the child takes notes. This enables a student to re-listen at his or her leisure or in short bouts of focus during playback.