The Use of Assistive Technology for Persons with Learning Disabilities in Special Needs Education in Nigeria

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Special needs education is the education of persons with special needs in a way that addresses the individual differences and needs of these persons. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to help learners with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self sufficiency and success in school and community than would be available if the persons were only given access to a typical classroom education (Wikipedia, 2010). Waston (2009) sees special needs education as that which is placed to provide additional services, support, programmes, specialized placements or environments to ensure that all students' educational needs are provided for. The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2004) asserts that special needs education is a formal special educational training given to people (children and adults) with special needs. This group of people may be classified into three categories namely the disabled, the disadvantaged and the gifted and talented. Common special needs include challenges with learning, communication challenges, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders (New Zealand's Ministry of Education, 2010).

Learning disability is the most recent exceptionality to be considered a specific classification. The group includes those who do not fit neatly into traditional categories of exceptional children. Learning disability according to Lere (2009) is a condition that has link with human ability to learn through psychological processes co-ordinated by the brain. The term also includes such condition as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and developmental aphasia (Lerner, 1993). Within the regular school setting, a substantial number of such children are slow in learning to talk or to acquire other communication skill or to develop visual or auditory perception. Some have difficulty in hearing, to read, to spell, to write or calculate. Omede (2009) illustrated succinctly that there are children who are not receptive to language but are not deaf; who are not blind but unable to perceive visually; and who cannot learn by ordinary methods of instruction but are not mentally retarded; all of these children are learning disabled. Since the recognition of this category of persons in the 1960s as a specific handicap, it has become the largest area of enrolment accounting for almost half (43percent) of the children enrolled in special education programmes in 1984. This assertion is corroborated by Lerner (1993) stating that children with special needs worldwide, but are the most neglected because their disabilities are hidden. The handicap is the least in the continuum to be understood and attended to by professionals, non-professionals, government and other stakeholders. This is probably because it cannot be identified at first sight (Egaga, Orim, Olayi, and Ewa, 2010). Unlike children with visual impairment, auditory impairment, mental retardation, physical impairment, and those with autism, whose disabilities are easily seen or noticed. In the main, learning disabilities are presumed to be rooted in the central nervous system. They may also have a co-ordination and inter personal problems (Adams and Okyere, 2003).

Educating persons with learning disabilities would be cumbersome without the adaptation of equipment and materials as well as special intervention strategies owing to their peculiar circumstances. To this end, the use of assistive technology for persons with learning disabilities becomes an imperative venture as it ameliorates their specific learning difficulties. Unfortunately, these assistive technologies are virtually lacking in most special schools in Nigeria. Specifically, this paper shall seek to explore the relevance of assistive technology in educating persons with learning disabilities taking into cognizance the various technological devices available and the challenges encountered in the application of these assistive technologies. …