Kindergarten students with autism can experience challenges to a lesser or greater degree in the areas of behavior, communication, and fine motor skills. As a result, they have very different learning needs in comparison to typical students. Due to these challenges, it is extremely difficult to determine precisely what the student has or hasn’t learned.
In a typical classroom, students are asked verbal questions or asked to write answers to questions on a subject they have learned. Students with autism need a more visual way of showing what they have learned. An example of this would be to place three pictures of food in front of the student and ask them to point at the apple. However, for the teacher (paraprofessional) it is a big undertaking to print the pictures, laminate and then Velcro them. Over time, these images can get damaged, and students can memorize answers because they’re not random.
However, when OneNote entered the picture, it allowed for the creation of interactive lesson planning. The image below shows the old way of doing things with which students had great difficulty trying to locate the different reading material for the lesson.
In comparison, the next image shows how a lesson plan is laid out in OneNote. All the information is just a click away with no searching required for the student.
Paraprofessionals are even using OneNote to create student portfolios that can contain videos of the student working in the classroom or work completed on an interactive whiteboard. This reduces the amount of paper needed for each lesson, and the OneNote folder can even be shared with the parents of the student so that they can monitor the progress of their child.
Now with Windows tablets, students can complete interactive lessons directly on the tablet without any need for printed worksheets. Their progress in these lessons can be linked directly to Individualized Education Plans (IEP) goals and students find this method more engaging, and they make better progress toward those goals. Non-verbal students can also be introduced to typing with Bluetooth keyboards, and their typing skills can be included in their IEP goals. A student mastered the typing lesson above in a month.
These tablets open the door to other activities that would be next to impossible with printed worksheets; making it clear that this is the way forward for students with autism. Microsoft is no stranger to empowering those with disabilities; just last month they welcomed the Special Olympic Games to Redmond and in a recent Hackathon a team is creating a game for people with autism.