IncludEdu – Assistive Technology for All Learners

For Sara and Lee, the global pandemic was a period of time spent juggling hectic work commitments whilst homeschooling 3 young children – a challenge that they, like millions of other parents, never imagined they’d have to embark on prior to 2020.

Understandably, home schooling was a challenge for every parent, but their eldest son Lucas, identified as having non-verbal autism, is a pupil at the Special Needs Unit at Myrddin Community Primary School, where for the last 5 years, he received specialist support from staff on a daily basis, enabling him to access his personalised curriculum.

With the prospect of a ‘lockdown’ looming in late March, discussions took place with school staff over how to ensure Lucas’ education continued to progress. It was inevitable that Lucas was going to have his daily life transformed, but at the time, nobody would have predicted that, through the integration of Assistive Tech, it would be transformed in such a good way.

Assistive Technology can be identified as; products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for individuals identified as having difficulties and/or disabilities.

When Lucas’ family were initially introduced to Proloquo2Go, they weren’t aware of what it was or how it would help them over the following months. Previously, Lucas had used Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate but following the introduction of the award-winning symbol-supported communication app, called Proloquo2Go, Lucas’ communication skills improved dramatically. Designed to promote growth in communication skills and foster language development through research-based vocabularies, the app is one of few AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) apps which provides support for all users, from beginners to advanced communicators, while catering for a wide range of fine-motor, visual and cognitive skills. The daily use of Assistive Tech has positively transformed the communications between Lucas and his family. 

“He’s flying with it! He is non-verbal autistic but is getting more and more words since using this! It is honestly incredible and we are so grateful for it! It has helped us as a family no end! When he is unwell he can tell us what’s wrong which is amazing as for years he would just be screaming or have violent/aggressive behaviour to try and tell us but since being able to communicate with us, via the App, his frustrations and behaviours have calmed down a lot!” – Sara, Lucas’ Mum

It was when this story was brought to the attention of Aspire 2Be Partner Technologist, Ryan Evans, that it inspired him to move forward with an idea that he had been developing for a while; 

“Pupils with Additional Learning Needs and the effective use of technology to support learners has always been a passion of mine. I’d wanted to be able to support educators, parents, guardians and anybody else who supports individuals with learning needs, with suggestions and guidance on how to access assistive technology, and Lucas’ success story really inspired me to move this idea along.”

Firstly, Ryan developed a brand new online course, focusing on all the Accessibility features that are built into every iPad to support a wide range of learning needs. The course is free to anyone who signs up to Aspire 2Be’s online learning platform, AspirEd.

Secondly, as part of Ryan’s involvement in the Google Innovator Program, Ryan was able to build and develop the IncludEdu website. This website aims to help education practitioners make decisions about how they can personalise a learner’s experience through the integration of Assistive Technology into mainstream, small group or individual learning activities. Educators can, following the identification of a specific or additional need, select relevant Assistive Technology solutions to support, promote and enhance learning.

The impact of this has been huge, with thousands of users globally accessing the tools available through IncludEdu, to enhance and support the learner experience for children and adults with Additional Learning Needs. It has had an enormously positive impact on many families just like Lucas’ and continues to support learners to get the most out of their education, daily.

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