These Free or Low-cost Ideas Make Such a Difference for Your Students!
Students with special needs often require adaptations to their environment and/or materials to help them access their education. These adaptations can range from a high-tech communication device that costs hundreds of dollars (or more!) to a picture quickly drawn or cut from a magazine. The definition of technology is: The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment. I wanted to write a post about low-tech, because simple adaptations can be easy to make or inexpensive to purchase while still having a huge positive impact for students with special needs.
To begin, here’s a list of materials that are essential for the low-tech classroom, and easily accessible:
1) Velcro (I didn’t need to tell you that!) Use for holding any item in place, whether it’s a visual schedule, school supplies, or items of clothing
2) Masking tape, especially colored if you can get it. Use to mark boundaries for students who have limited vision or difficulties staying in their own space.
3) Dot stickers (the kind that are used at yard sales for pricing). Use to adapt a keyboard, draw attention to items on a worksheet, etc.
4) Binder clips are great to hold items in place without the permanence of velcro
5) Erasers at the end of pencils make a good tool to help turn pages
6) 3-ring binders make an inexpensive slant board. Height can be adjusted by the width of the binder.
7) Plastic sleeves (ie. page protectors) can be used as a highlighting tool for reading
8) Highlighters, to draw attention to specific text
9) Rulers can be used as a number line, a visual for number identification and as a straight edge.
10) Access to a Xerox machine so that you can enlarge copy before printing it.
Inexpensive low-tech materials:
If your school gives you a budget, here are some inexpensive low tech materials that you can purchase. Before buying anything, consult with your occupational therapist and see what she has available. Vision specialists, physical therapists and speech therapists may also have low tech adaptations available. Students will need to be on the specialists caseload in order to get access to the resources.
1) Adapted pencil grips
2) Adapted scissors
3) Copy holder (you could make your own with older Scrabble board tile holders, or taped to a binder)
4) Non-slip writing mats
5) Visuals (PECS is a low-tech form of communication) There are many visuals available for purchase (such as BoardMaker). You can also get visuals for free (enable2learn has a large selection, click here to access) or simply make your own by cutting out pictures from magazines. I always recommend laminating visuals for durability.
6) Wiki sticks have many uses. Read my blog post for ideas (click here)
7) Adapted paper that is highlighted, has wider spacing or raised lines
8) Weighted wrist bands to provide stability when writing.
Consider having a “Make and Take” as part of your next special education meeting. Each teacher would bring one idea and enough materials so that each teacher could make one for their classroom. Here’s are two simple ideas to get you started:
Function: To help students with fine motor challenges turn the pages of a book
Materials: picture book, foamy shapes, glue (if shapes aren’t self-stick)
How to: Glue a foamy shape to the top right-hand corner of each page. This separates the pages enough to allow the student to independently turn the page.
Function: To help students grip a writing implement
Materials: Pencil, cut down to approximately 2 inches (shorter pencils are easier for students to grip and manipulate. You can break a pencil into several pieces), rubber bands
How to: Wrap a rubber band several times near the point of the pencil. Try to wrap as smoothly as possible.
And here are ten more low-tech adaptations: walker, magnifying tools, microphone, post-it notes, pointer, walker, picture dictionary, stencils, large zipper pull, and manipulatives.
I hope these ideas inspire you to increase your use of low tech to support in your classroom!