Shannon Hill, a professional writer, wrote an article about what assistive technology would be helpful for students with Down Syndrome, that I found to be extremely resourceful.
Assistive Technology for Down's Syndrome Students
Students with special needs may require special modifications in order to meet their educational goals. Federal legislation requires that students with learning disabilities be educated in the same manner as non-disabled students. Therefore, it's not unusual to see students with Down's syndrome in classrooms across the nation. These students can be successful with just a few modifications from the educators. Assistive technology can make all the difference in the effectiveness of instruction with a child with Down's syndrome. For most people, the term "assistive technology" brings electronics to mind. Assistive technology in this instance, though, indicates any type of equipment or materials used to enhance learning and make tasks easier to complete. Assistance technology is most important in aiding students with cognitive and motor skills and can be everything from a pair of scissors with a spring, the use of a highlighter, a shortened pencil, enlarged graphics, or the use of a SmartBoard that allows the tactile touch of the screen.
Students with Down's syndrome suffer from delays in cognitive ability. Their brains have a delayed reaction when their neurological system sends a message to complete a task. In the classroom it is important to decrease the amount of material a student has to process at one time. If a non-disabled peer is completing a worksheet with 10 problems, then a student with Down's may only have to complete two problems. Likewise, the information should be enlarged with very little wording or keywords highlighted so that the focus is on the problem and not the amount of information on the page, which can be overwhelming. Also, verbal directions should be given on each task, rather than expecting the child to focus on or read the directions for themselves.
Assistive technology is crucial in helping Down's students with their writing ability. The hand formation of these students tends to be smaller, with shorter, stubbier fingers and a lowered thumb. Also, some of the usual wrist bones are not formed, making it difficult to hold and manipulate objects. Slanted desks are one type of assisted technology that can aid in the successful ability to write. To create a slanted desk, a three-ring binder can be turned sideways. This allows for the lack of mobility in the wrist. Students with Down's often try to hold their pencils by anchoring them against the thumb rather than using the tip of the thumb. Shortened pencils or triangular-shaped pencils encourage students to hold them correctly.
To aid with cutting skills, springed scissors can be used. These types of scissors differ in that they contain a spring that automatically opens once it's shut. The opening and closing of scissors is a particularly difficult task for a Down's child. Springed scissors aid them in learning the opening and closing motions that is the desired effect of cutting. Also, the outline should be darkened with a marker.
Students with Down's syndrome need tactile experiences. Assistive technology in this area can include allowing the students to "write" their letters using play-doh or making their letters in shaving cream on a desk. Another type of assistive technology that can be used with younger students who are just learning to write their letters and numbers is to enlarge each letter and use a hot glue gun to trace the letters on the paper. This approach discourages students from going outside the lines when writing letters with their pencils.
Although assistive technology with special needs students goes beyond the range of digital technology, it is important too. Smartboards are an excellent tool for special educators. Lessons can be created using Notebook Software that allow a student to move objects with their fingers, draw lines to connect sounds with words, and hear the sounds or words associated with a lesson. Also, the use of a mouse aids with fine motor skills.
The links below are other assistive technology tools (with free trials) and resources that might be helpful for students with Down Syndrome: