I have been a teacher for very special children for 12 years now. In my opinion, the most important gifts that I can give to them are the feeling of being included, a state of independence and a voice if necessary. We all want to feel included in life. No one wishes to stand out from their peers or be made to feel in any way different. I do my utmost to teach them to be literate, handle money and tell the time if their difficulties allow this. By doing this I hope I’m giving them some independence as far as they are able and allowed to achieve this. Teaching special children is my passion and I aim to improve the lives of these very special children every day.

There are many high tech inventions designed to help me do this. Too many to mention in one post. For this post I will confine myself to the ipad. I believe that this is the best high tech tool currently available for SEN. The most obvious advantage is that it is portable. The child can take it around school, on educational visits and rather importantly they can take it home with them. It has a camera, which is a huge bonus for a non communicating child. Photographs can be used to illustrate their day in a ‘news style’ fashion for parents. This is particularly pleasing for children who don’t have a voice with which to share their news.

On the spec side the battery life is superior to many tablets. Ipad mounts may be purchased which attaches the device to a wheelchair for a child who isn’t dexterous enough to hold one. Rubber cases may also be purchased which gives them the ‘bounce’ factor for a child who mistakes it as a missile. I believe there are also tentative plans to make the ipad switch accessible. This would open up so many possibilities for SEN. Lives would be transformed in an instant, we aren’t there yet though.

This brings me to apps. There is a truly amazing array of these available with special children in mind. Here are just a few of the ones I use with my class.

In Maths I favour Maths v Zombies, Mental Maths, Kid Maths, Math puppy, Maths Drills Lite, AB Maths, Zoom and Doodle.

In Literacy we favour Alphabet, Bluster, Chicktionary Lite, Futaba Word games for kids, ABC Sight Words and ABC Life.

All of the above apps are free which is always helpful. The best is yet to come! The best app I have seen is relatively expensive but I believe is worth every penny. The app is called Proloquo2go. It’s an augmented and alternative communication system for children who experience communication difficulties. It converts text in to speech and has a vast library of pictures to choose from to illustrate the text. Photographs from camera roll may also be imported to personalise the message. We use this app for daily timetables, choice of food, daily news and general communication. The spoken voice is loud enough to enable the child to take part in an assembly without the use of a microphone. Imagine the opportunities now open to a non communicating child which were previously denied to them. How wonderful about themselves do they feel now?

In my humble opinion the ipad is a magnificent invention for special children. Possibly for the first time in their lives they may evoke some envy from their peers. They have in their possession, and are able to use an ipad. How cool do they look?

To return to my three gifts to my special learners the ipad allows me to deliver them all in one easy package. Independence, inclusion and a voice can all be achieved with a little imagination and the use of the wonderful ipad.