Discuss the differences between past goals for communication and current practices in communication and language instruction.  List and discuss the differences as they relate to service provision...

Discuss the differences between past goals for communication and current practices in communication and language instruction.  List and discuss the differences as they relate to service provision for students with severe disabilities.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The difference in communication with severe disabilities students prior to the advent of the Web 2.0 and the ubiquitous use of computers is that in the 21st century we have assistive or adaptive technology. This is the type of technology that has finally opened the doors to special needs teachers to finally reach out to children who cannot communicate.

Assistive or adaptive technology includes iPads, point-and-touch toys, smartboards, hearing devices, braille devices and similar objects of that nature, most which may require electricity or battery life to function. In that respect, the difference in modern communication is how to ensure that those highly-sophisticated technological devices are properly programmed to focus on the communicative language skills that these students need.

Lest we forget that adaptive technology is not limited to computer programming or computer-based communication; it also helps to make up for the disability by providing the severe needs student with an object that can do with as much similarity the same work of the body part that is not working. This includes prosthetic parts, speaking and listening devices, headphones, writing materials, etc

This being said the big question is: How are we using these materials effectively to produce communication in the classroom, and are we training our students effectively so that they can use them as needed?

As 21st century educators we need to provide all students proper education in a safe, non-threatening environment. Moreover, we need to communicate objectives, explain skills, and conference with students so that the take ownership of their learning process. It is no different with special needs students. Therefore, we need to continuously become trained on how to use our resources as effectively as possible to give these students every opportunity to use what they have to become successful and as independent as they possibly can. 

Those are the current issues with the new forms of teaching and learning in the classroom because they involve the use of a new technology that we had yet to have after nearly 150 years of developing proper special needs approaches.

This takes us to past practices. Prior to the 21st century education paradigm shift, teachers were at the center of the instructions. They were models, but not facilitators; they were professors of knowledge, but not engaged teachers. Students with special needs were more trained for life outside of school, and the academic achievements of the formative years were mostly by-passed by the need of making them "world  ready".

This is important because that shows that we have spent many decades teaching life skills, but perhaps not as importantly as academic skills. Through proper communication special ed instructors can achieve both goals and teach students all that they need to know. Again, the important thing is for the student to be at the center of the instruction, and that all the data gathered of the student is triangulated and put to use to differentiate and guide instruction. That is the huge importance, and the main difference, of the past and present issues with communication in the educational setting.

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