ICT and SEN: Questions and Answers

1. Are some children with special needs not  a danger to a computer?

I teach a Year 1 class, many of whom have severe learning difficulties. Very few are even toilet trained and I know that if I let them loose on a computer it would be broken or smashed within minutes.

I realise that at this age and ability the children won’t be doing marvellous things on the computer but you can introduce them from an early age to good computer habits and model how to switch on the computer use the keyboard and mouse etc.Basic electrical safety could also be taught. With classroom assistant help, you could on a 1-1 basis ,show them some of the excellent BBC sites for young children- Teletubbies, Tweenies etc.( there is a list in the Websites section of this Special Needs area). The children can watch the pictures on screen and learn to click the mouse to make things move /happen.Our special needs pre- school teacher has used http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/stories with her wee ones and some of them are only 3.She uses it to support the telling of traditional fairy tales like Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. Obviously 5 min sessions are all they can cope with.
A data projector connected to the computer is a great help as the whole group can see what’s happening and the big screen helps them concentrate.
Good CDROMs are PB Bear,Touch screen games( Semerc), Fisher Price Play Family, Reader Rabbit Toddler, Spot, Teletubbies and Noddy’s Lets get ready for school. Lots of great material out there.The SLD schools mostly use switches instead of the mouse ,if your group have very severe difficulties ask your ICT co-ordinator about these. They are not very expensive and the children just hit a big button instead of trying to operate a mouse. There are mini mice available for wee hands too.

The digital camera and Roamer can also be used . The children will probably only be pressing a button with maximum help at this stage but again it’s a great introduction to the world of ICT and wonderful for language development

2. Using the computer to escape

Is it a good idea to let young children with autistic tendencies use the computer?

We have been using a computer in the classroom for the last three years and over this time there have been some really special children. Two boys with autistic tendencies used the computer to escape from human beings – they required much closer monitoring as to their allotted time and whether or not they were letting even one other child join in, if only to watch.

3. Taking care that confidence is developing

Does using the computer always help develop self-esteem and confidence?

We would have a lot of children with poorly developed fine motor skills. Sometimes using the mouse has provided the practice they need but sometimes poor mouse control has resulted in clicking open the wrong things and scrambling the programme. This has often meant that a lot of adult time has been taken up sorting things out and often restarting the computer and, very sadly, it has also resulted in a great loss of confidence and self esteem as the other children are very quick to notice things are wrong and to tell tales

4. Using the computer with pupils with language problems.

Is it always good idea to use the computer with the above problems?

Many of our children with special needs come from language deprived backgrounds. They are often plonked in front of the television to keep them quiet and out of the way.  It would be important that any computer activities for these children involve an adult and or other children and that they are given specific tasks and opportunities to explain what they have been  doing.

5. I have found a certain child to get very confused about the use of capital letters on the computer keyboard whilst attempting word processing.

You can buy little lower case stickers to cover the keys. Or simply buy plain ones and write the letters on

6. I want to introduce the use of the web to the children in my class with special needs.  What do I need to think about?

Attractive and colourful graphics are a great motivator and facilitator of learning. Care needs to be taken to select sites and programmes where navigational instructions and information to be used is not too wordy, so that the children’s initial enthusiasm and confidence is maintained.

7. My special needs primary 1 children have come from a background of and exciting television programmes, electronic games, videos and DVDs etc.  They are not interested in books and materials I have.  How can I stimulate them and stop them from falling further behind their peers?

By using ICT in the classroom, the teacher can tap into this wealth of appealing and inviting resources.
In the early years of Primary school, the teacher and / or classroom assistant have to spend time modelling the use of these resources.
Less able pupils can enjoy the opportunity to venture into this area of learning experiences and enjoy the feeling of success, by working with games like Tizzy’s Toy Box……reading the text in O.R.T Talking Books……..alphabet and phonic work in Animated Alphabet.
At this stage, the stepping stones are not so far apart. Success is within reach for SEN children, and they are having fun!

8. Takes too long

ICT does give the special needs children much required confidence when you can find appropriate activities for them. However tasks like story writing they find extremely difficult (like many children) they can’t think of the story and find the letters. Even if they are just copying from a story they wrote earlier this can take a very long time.

I agree  that keyboard skills could be a problem, but the use of Clicker 4 (with word banks) could help overcome this. There is a good bbc. web site for reinforcing phonics, called ‘Words and Pictures’ which encourages a quicker time response with practice