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Monday, June 30, 2014

4 ways to make college more accessible for special needs students

From eCampus News

By Andria Casey
June 20, 2014

There may be a shortage of apps targeting post-secondary special education, but you can still take steps to facilitate a smooth transition for your students.

In recent years, the awareness of special needs in education has grown steadily. Yet, most of the focus is placed on K-12 resources. As special needs students move on to higher education, the amount of support and resources seems to dwindle.

Nearly 350 special needs apps can be found when searching in the iTunes store. The large majority of these apps feature fun cartoons and basic concepts – perfect for the K-12 audience, but not the higher education audience. I was impressed with the recent
eCampus News article on assistive technology apps, which listed several apps that held value beyond the doors of high school.

While early support and intervention are critical, students with special needs also need help transitioning into the higher education space – just as does any student entering college. Once they’ve outgrown K-12 tools, what is available to facilitate learning?

As an educator, you can meet unique learning needs to facilitate success in college.
Atomic Learning, a leader in online professional learning, provides several series that focus on assistive technology and accessible education.

1.) Understand the disability.

Take the time to educate yourself about the challenges presented by the condition. Meet with the student ahead of time to determine how you can best support him or her. Work with your student services program to match the student with the appropriate outlets on campus.

2.) Make the classroom and its materials accessible.

The necessary tools will vary based on disability, but your student must be able to access the proper materials. If a student frequently misses class for health reasons, make sure lectures are available via video or audio recording. Match the student with a note taker, interpreter or signer to ensure lectures are communicated effectively. It’s increasingly easier to provide accessible course materials, including closed-captioned videos and alternate image text.

3.) Create an individualized learning environment.

Realize that each student, whether disabled or non-disabled, learns differently. Remember that some students are visual learners, while others who are visually impaired need special tools just to read text. Be prepared to customize your lessons to the student’s individual needs.

4.) Provide continued support.

A student’s needs don’t end once he or she leaves the classroom. Some students may need extra guidance with task organization and time management. Establish strong study skills, and offer testing help if needed. Most important, be willing to provide individual attention and tutoring, whether through extended office hours or the assistance of a teaching aide.

There may be a shortage of apps targeting post-secondary special education, but you can still take steps to facilitate a smooth transition for your students. Do you have any tips for supporting special needs on campus? What resources do you use in your classroom?


Andria Casey is an Account Manager at C. Blohm & Associates, a public relations firm specializing in the education and special needs industries. Connect on Twitter @andriaclaire and @CBlohmAssoc.

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