Teaching through creative assistive technology
April 2016, Skopje
Inclusive education is about acknowledging that all children — regardless of their ability — can learn and that all children need support. Inclusion of children with visual impairments in education requires taking advantage of assistive technology, regardless of whether they are high tech devices or affordable tools developed by the teachers’ team. In the primary school “Goce Delcev” in Prilep the limited financial resources is compensated by teachers’ creativity and commitment. Their inventive assistive tools, the cooperation with the parents and the involvement of students substitute the advanced assistive technologies. This story is on how the school team adopts the curriculum to the needs of Biljana who has visual impairment and was included in mainstream education as of first grade.
Biljana is 14 year old and attends 7th Grade. Together with her teachers and other students she learns through touch and listening based on a curriculum adopted to her needs.
Together with classmate Dino, in a French language class, Biljana learns new words linked to the human body by touching a doll.
Inclusion of children with visual impairments in education also requires making sure all people involved have the necessary resources and creativity to help the student in her or his learning. “In French class, we learn three new words each class. With Biljana, my approach in transferring knowledge is to write them down in her notebook so that she can practice them at home with her family. To make it easier [for her family], I write down the words in Cyrillic so that her family can read them to her,” said Irena, head teacher and teacher of French language.
“The first time I met Biljana was when she was in second grade. We worked on literacy cards with letters made of straws,” says Elizabeth, a special education teacher in the school. Cards with letters made for the needs of Biljana. In the photo she touches and reads her name “Bile.”
“She now uses a computer with a customized key board,” continues Elizabeth. A computer keyboard tailored to the needs of Biljana. She can partially see them, but she can feel and memorize the different shapes of the letters under her fingers.
Like all students, students with a visual impairment have their own unique needs. These needs depend on the students visual impairment as well as other disabilities. “We adapt the curriculum to the needs of children with disabilities in cooperation with the inclusion team and the child’s parents. Inclusion is possible only if all cooperate. Each day before class, the teachers prepare additional activities for children with disabilities included in regular classes,” said Liliana, a school psychologist.
“I am happy that she is accepted by the children, they care for her as a close friend,” said head teacher Irena. She believes that one of the most important factors for successful inclusion of children with disabilities in education is support from family, teachers and students.
Education goals for students with visual impairments are essentially the same as those for all students. The goals are: effective communication, social competence, employability, and personal independence. In order to accomplish these goals, however, students with visual impairments require specific interventions and modifications of their educational programs. This school with very limited resources succeeds to create conditions for Biljana to complete primary education and continue the journey of lifelong learning.