How iPads can support learning for students with autism

iPads can help engage and encourage students with autism, special-education teachers say.

Ed-tech advocates are discovering the numerous benefits that mobile devices, including iPads, can have for students. But a growing number of special-education teachers are finding that iPads can have a positive effect on their students with autism in particular.

Students with autism often have trouble communicating and might struggle with transitions, such as changing classes, getting on a school bus, or taking a field trip. A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last April indicated that one out of every 88 children is believed to have autism or fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Karina Barley, an Australian special-education teacher who runs Project Autism Australia, uses iPads with her students on the autism spectrum. Handheld devices such as the iPad offer students with autism the chance to personalize their learning while moving at their own pace, and the larger screen (when compared to a smart phone) makes it easy for them to manipulate various apps.…Read More

States struggle over how to evaluate special-ed teachers

Measuring success based on student growth on standardized tests is considerably more complicated for special-ed teachers.

Since the first day of class this school year, Bev Campbell has been teaching her students how to say their names.

Some of the children in her class have autism. Others have Down syndrome or other disabilities. “People don’t understand where they’ve come from,” she says. “It’s slow.”

Just one has learned how to say his name. Still, the South Florida teacher sees signs of growth in the nine kindergarten to second-grade students in her class.…Read More

How to cut special-ed spending without sacrificing quality

It is challenging, but not impossible, to reduce special-ed spending while increasing student achievement, a new primer says.

As school districts grow accustomed to doing more with less, special-education programs are dealing with their own unique set of challenges—and one expert has proposed several solutions to rein in special-ed spending without reducing program quality.

The recently published “Something Has Got to Change: Rethinking Special Education,” a primer from Nathan Levenson, a former superintendent of public schools in Arlington, Mass., and the American Enterprise Institute’s Future of American Education Project, offers practical solutions to tame out-of-control spending on special-education programs while serving special-needs students better.

Levenson, who is managing director of the District Management Council, argues that schools are often wary of cutting special-ed costs because they fear retaliation from the parents of special-needs students. Special-ed spending has increased steadily, sometimes without regard for program effectiveness. But through a handful of steps, school districts can increase the effectiveness of their special-education programs while cutting costs at the same time, he said.…Read More

Experts outline challenges facing math instruction

Students with disabilities, as well as their teachers, need support in math classes.

Numerous studies point to a fact that cannot be ignored: U.S. students’ math and science performance trails that of several other countries, and the nation’s classrooms need qualified, committed teachers to help students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and at-risk students succeed in higher-level math and science courses.

During the Texas Instruments T3 (Teachers Teaching with Technology) International Conference in late February, educators got the chance to learn how technology can be integrated into math and science instruction. The conference included sessions dedicated to the instruction of at-risk students, including those with disabilities and ELLs.

“Math disabilities … are quite significant in some students, and then less obvious in others, but they do exist,” said Dr. Phoebe Gillespie, director of the Personnel Improvement Center at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.…Read More