Why do schools insist on antiquated methods?
For most U.S. students, their life at home and their life at school is like living in two different centuries. At home, they use a personal computer, a tablet, a cell phone, and maybe even a smart phone. They communicate with it, read books on it, record scenes of life, and use the alarms and reminders for time management. Yet, at school, they are several decades back, still using notebooks, #2 pencils, and large, heavy, out-of-date textbooks. Why?
Am I the only one who sees a true injustice here? Let’s compare a traditional day at school for a kid with ADHD and/or autism, and a day at school using technology for that same child.
The Caveman Way
Joe (alright, yeah, I’m talking about my son, Ricochet) has ADHD, Asperger’s and significant executive functioning deficits. He has one big binder — with paper, folders, and a planner — that he’s supposed to take to every class. In each class, he has to get papers in the right places, without loosing any to and from class and to and from home — a challenge he is not equipped to succeed with. He loses his pencil a couple times a day, so his mom gives him a new one or two every morning. His homework is only written down about one quarter of the time. And the worksheets have to be unearthed and uncrumpled from his binder, backpack, or pants pocket before he can start on homework. It is very stressful for Joe, his teachers, and his momma.
The 21st Century Way
Joe has an iPad just for school. And that’s all he takes to and from classes and home, because that’s all he needs to succeed. One simple tablet.
He uses the app inClass to take audio, typed, or written notes. He can also record his schedule and his homework in that app.
He uses the camera to take a picture of the homework written on the board, which is much easier than writing it since he has a writing learning disability, called dysgraphia. Of course, the tablet has a calculator for use in math class.
He can read textbooks, as well as non-fiction and fiction works too, in the VoiceDream app with Bookshare (free for kids with learning disabilities). He can highlight and make notes in the books. And, if he has trouble with tracking and/or retention, he can set the text to read aloud and highlight in sync.
With the SnapType app, he can take a photo of worksheets and then compete them right on the tablet.
And the Dragon Dictation app allows him to speak what he wants to say for written work, and the app types it as he speaks — that’s huge for kids with dysgraphia and/or poor processing speed.
He can email written work to teachers from most of these apps.
That’s it. With four simple apps in addition to the preloaded apps, a child with ADHD and/or other learning difficulties can have a much easier way of functioning at school. A more successful way. Of course, there are hundreds of other apps that can help kids in school. Kahn Academy, Mod Math, Mind Node, Unstuck, and more. Keeping it simple and free of distractions is prudent though. Less is more definitely applies in this situation.
Now Joe always has what he needs and only has to keep up with one item. His stress and anxiety about school have decreased and his grades are improving.
*app store affiliate
The Real World
My question is, why put these kids through the anguish of the caveman way of education when a more successful, 21st Century way is available? Why are we trying to fit these square-peg kids into the round holes of traditional public education? By doing so, we are only harming already fragile students.
I know, I know. The school budget is tight. I get that. It is a problem in many districts, and a huge problem in North Carolina, where we live. If the district doesn’t have the money, use crowdfunding and grants. I know several teachers who get an enormous amount of funding for their students through these avenues. iPads more than capable of handling this load can be purchased for $299 now, and I know apple gives discounts to schools, so it is even less. $300 to change a special needs kid’s entire life — seems like a bargain.
And why not let parents supply it, if they can afford to? I have offered many times over the years to get technology for Ricochet to use at school (even though I never really could afford it). Yet, I’m always told that he needs to write things by hand sometimes; that it’s better for him to complete worksheets the way they’re intended; that teachers don’t know how to help him with technology; blah, blah, yada, yada. I’ve been on the receiving end of a bounty of excuses. Excuses that really only oppress my son.
Right now we have an extra older model iPad mini. I own every one of the apps I outlined above. I could fill the iPad with everything Ricochet needs and school could be a little easier for him. Except, many teachers won’t allow its use in their classrooms.
My biggest frustration of all is that this is how our kids will manage in the real world after school. As I do and you probably do too, they’ll keep appointments in their calendar app in their smart phone, and it will alert them when they need to be somewhere. They’ll use to-do list apps to be sure they don’t forget things. They’ll speak their emails and texts to others, not write them by hand. So why not teach them to use these tools that can help them overcome obstacles in the future right now?
Why continually try to fit these square-peg kids in the round holes when all it does is tear them down?!?!
We need a special education revolution to start giving these kids the accommodations and tools they need and deserve.
Author: Penny Williams
Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD: Boy Without Instructions, What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD, and The Insider’s Guide to ADHD Penny is the current editor of ParentingADHDandAutism.com, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.